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THE DIARY OF 
ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 




A. C. Bknson 
1899 



A. H. Fry 



[Fronlis 



THE DIARY 



oi- 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER 
BENSON 



EDITED BY 

PERCY LUBBOCK 



sP y ^'- 






LONDON 

HUTCHINSON & CO, {PUBLISHERS), LTD, 

PATERNOSTER ROW 



CONTENTS 













PAGE 


NTRODUCTION 


I I 


I. 1897-1899 










27 


II. I 900-1 903 










49 


III. 1904 . 










73 


IV. 1905 . 










lOI 


V. 1906 . 










132 


VI. 1907 . 










. ^55 


VII. 1908-1909 










179 


VIII. 1910 . 










. 184 


IX. 191 I . 










202 


X. 1912 . 










228 


XI. 1913 . 










. 246 


XII. 1914 . 










. 265 


XIII. 1915-1917 










277 


XIV. 1918-1925 










. 296 


INDEX 










317 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

A. C. Benson (1899) ..... Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

A. C. Benson, E. F. Benson, R. H, Benson (1903) 72 

A. C. Benson, H. O. Sturgis, P. Lubbock: (1906) 144 

The Old Lodge, AL-^gdalene College . . 184 

A. C. Benson, F. R. Salter, G. Winterbotham (191 1) 206 

A. C. Benson (191 i) . . . . . 246 

A. C. Benson (1923) ..... 300 

The Study, The Old Lodge (1925) . . . 314 



THE DIARY OF 
ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

INTRODUCTION 

Arthur Benson began to keep a regular diary in 1897, 
and thenceforward to the end of his life the familiar grey 
or purple notebook lay always on his table, close to his 
hand; and at any free moment of his busy day he would 
seize it, write in it with incredible swiftness, and bring it 
up to date with a dozen headlong pages. By the end of 
a month or less the notebook v/ould be filled from cover 
to cover and a new one opened. Year by year the 
volumes accumulated; they were stored away as they 
were finished in a great black wooden box, made for the 
purpose, in which they were arranged and packed with 
the ingenious neatness that he loved. The box, as he 
left it, contains no fewer than a hundred and eighty of 
these little books, and I calculate roughly that the whole 
work runs in length to something like four million words 
— forty substantial volumes, say, if it were printed in 
full. It means that over and above everything else, all 
the variety of his professional work, all his literary 
industry, all his social and active occupations, all the 
groaning mass of his daily correspondence — over and 
above the whole of this, in the chinks and crevices of a 
life that seemed already crammed to overflowing, he found 
time and space for another big book or two every year. 
Those who remember the amount and the intensity 
and the mixture of his activities may well ask in 
wonder from whence his diary, the mere bulk of it as it 

II 



THE DIARY OF 

lies in its box, can possibly have sprung; but there it is, 
tangible and ponderous yield of the spare moments of a 
man who rarely, scantily, unwillingly, as it seemed, ever 
had so much as a moment to spare. 

After reading it through from beginning to end, from 
its casual opening on the first day of the Eton summer 
holidays, nine-and-twenty years ago, to the last lines of 
all, illegibly scrawled in bed at Magdalene within a few 
days of his death, one may pause and turn and look back 
upon the long picture unrolled, trying to seize the whole 
effect of it and to answer a few of the many questions it 
provokes. Neither is easy for one who reads this diary 
with a memory perpetually responding to the old days 
recorded, the people named, the places described — for 
one who sees every page through a cloud of associa- 
tions, who completes every hint and fills every gap 
with the understanding of long remembrance. How 
would the enormous record strike a stranger.'' — it is 
the first question, and a difficult one for this editor to 
answer. Is it a piece of self-portraiture, and would it 
give a stranger a full and fair impression of the man who 
thus talked to himself, day by day, with such freedom and 
volubility.? Is it to be regarded as a chronicle of scenes 
and events, the mirror of an academic and a literary life, 
interesting to a stranger for the vivid and vigorous detail 
of the panorama? Perhaps it is both; but in both 
aspects I can believe that the amplifying interpreting 
memory of an old friend brings much to it that is not 
actually in the pages; and especially if it is taken as the 
portrait of Arthur Benson, how he was and how he 
appeared during all those years, I conclude that there is 
not a little to be added to it, and perhaps something to be 
taken away, before it can be offered as the true truth to 
those who did not know him. He wrote very freely in 
his diar)', and even very recklessly, but in a particular 
strain, not with all his moods — and not quite uncon- 
sciously either, so that the revelation of himself is not 
always to be accepted without demur. Enough, I place 
the diary, clearing it as well as I can of the thousand 
things I read into it, beside the image of the writer as he 

12 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

lives in a memory that is full of him; and now, as best 
may be, I note where his own pages fail to give a portrait 
that satisfies a friend. 



It has to be remembered always that Arthur Benson 
talking to himself and Arthur Benson talking to another 
were two very different people, so different in many ways 
that the link between them might otten be difficult to 
discern. What do we think of first, if we think of a walk 
and talk with him, or of a dinner-table where he was 
present, or of an evening session in his crowded little 
red-lit study at Magdalene.'' We think of his geniality, 
his brimming interest and enjoyment, his rich humour 
and his irresistible laughter. The hour returns with a 
sense of liberal ease, in which we all talked and laughed 
and argued at our best; for he made us all feel better 
pleased with ourselves, readier and livelier with our jests 
and anecdotes and ideas than at any other time; and 
though it was he who controlled the hour and directed it 
as he liked, there was no air or tone of dictation, we were 
all equal and companionable together. Nothing went 
wrong, he never arrived cross or moody or fretful; he 
brought life into the circle, he freshened it into convivi- 
ality. He created enjoyment in the hour, but first he 
enjoyed it himself — and so obviously, so expansively, 
that the very sight of him was inspiriting. Those walks 
or rides in the Cambridgeshire lanes, those evenings of 
relaxation round the fire, they were always to be counted 
on; provocative argument, insatiable curiosity, fantastic 
illustration never failed; and laughter was perpetually in 
the air, keeping the occasion in a lively stir, in a swing 
and glow of festivity. 

None of us, I suppose, can recall a more delightful 
talker — or a causeur^ I would rather say, if the other word 
sounds too loud and formal. He talked zi-ilh you, he 
insisted on knowing and hearing and being told — being 

1.3 



THE DIARY OF 

told the whole of your story, the last detail of the news 
you could bring him of your adventures. " I mustn't 
miss a word of this," he exclaimed with relish as he 
started you off; and he plied you with his questions, he 
refused to be satisfied till he was crying out in wonder 
or dismay or derision at your climax. It might not be 
much of an adventure really, an excursion, a country 
visit; but he had to know exactly what had happened, 
what you had seen, the full amusement and horror of it; 
for it was usually horror that it provoked, luxuriantly 
picturesque, to think that you should have dared and 
done such a feat as to stay, for example, in a strange 
house with a party of people for a day and a night. 
Think what his own sufferings would have been in such 
a predicament! He described them with gust and 
minuteness — how the gay company would have para- 
lysed him, how he would have sat heavily staring and 
despairing, unable to speak or think, his bones dissolving, 
his nose as sharp as a pen. And so it went on, the dismal 
picture was elaborated; and you might venture to put 
another picture beside it, the manner of his real 
appearance in a sociable gathering, centre and leader 
of whatever vivacity and charm it might possess; but 
he would have none of it, he denied and protested, 
using the best of his wit, his ingenuity, his extrava- 
gance of drollery, to describe his unfitness for society 
in general. 

It meant, of course, that he preferred to meet people 
upon his own terms, not upon theirs; he liked the 
interesting occasions better than the boring; but this 
simple explanation he could not admit. And certainly 
it was not trouble that he spared himself in company — 
in any company. He courted the acquaintance, it is the 
right phrase, of anyone who fell in his way — the great 
man whom he sat by at dinner, or the shy youth whom 
he invited to lunch, or the servant who attended to his 
needs; he took equal pains with them all, he brought his 
best to bear upon all alike to establish free and friendly 
communication. I have often watched him labouring in 
this manner at thankless tasks, devoting his pleasant 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

attention to mere dullness and platitude, refusing to be 
defeated. Nothing discouraged him but positive in- 
civility — pretentious manners, rude answers, overbearing 
discourse; and then indeed he submitted with the worst 
grace possible, he fumed in an uneasy silence of which 
his friends could immediately recognise the signals — 
and not always in silence either, if the right opening 
came for the trenchant word which he could plant, no 
one better, in the place where it was deserved. He hated 
to be silenced, he more fiercely hated to be bored than 
anyone we have known; but by well-meaning affability 
he was never bored, and it took a very intemperate and 
tyrannical talker to silence him. On the whole we see 
him intent upon his colloquy, rather shamelessly holding 
his neighbour away from the general talk, delighting him 
with low-voiced entertainment to which we all wish to 
listen when the general talk wears thin; or if he must 
attend to his duty, if he is the presiding host, then the 
right light vein that fits the occasion, in which all can 
share and shine, is never to seek and never fails. Most 
genial of hosts and most sociable of companions — so he 
seemed and so he was, for the hour. 



But it was not for him an hour of rest. It was always 
hard to believe, yet it was true, that he was much at the 
mercy of his politeness, constrained to make himself 
agreeable by a sort of doom of courtesy which he could 
not escape. It was hard to believe him when he said so, 
for how could such liberal ways be simulated by a sense 
of duty.'' — he must have enjoyed himself as he seemed to 
enjoy. And indeed he did, he had many faculties for 
enjoyment in his mind — minute and inquisitive observa- 
tion, a lively taste, not for the humours only, but for the 
very dust and draff of homely gossip. The low conversa- 
tion in the corner, so absorbing as it seemed, might 
easily prove to be an earnest exchange of the precise 

15 



THE DIARY OF 

details of — what shall we say? — the ownership of all the 
villas on the Huntingdon Road, all the sources of the 
income of a provincial grammar-school, the family history 
of an archdeacon; he acquired and retained with satis- 
faction a vast mass of information upon topics as 
brightening as these. But true it was, nevertheless, that 
his politeness laid hold of him in company and gave him 
no rest; he could never take his ease and wait on events 
and allow himself to be approached and solicited; he 
was bound to do all the work. And naturally it was 
fatiguing, and when the hour was over he subsided with 
relief upon his solitude — not to rest, for he could not rest, 
but to work as he pleased, without the need of pleasing. 
Why not take the obligation more lightly, as he was well 
entitled to take it? He could not say why, he only knew 
that when he met people he had to win their favour, to 
conciliate and attach them as fast as he might. The 
shadow of critical displeasure must be repelled at all 
cost. 

So he said, so he asserted with some of the exaggera- 
tion that amused him. But there was this much of 
truth in it, that his sensibility to his surroundings, the 
present company, the scene, the moment, was like a 
nerve continually exposed. He was never unconscious 
of the moment or of anything it brought; and if it brought 
what to another might be the mildest and most transient 
of discomfort, his nerve outrageously felt it. He had to 
take care of the minutes as they passed ; for he was stung, 
he was positively murdered by the trifle of boredom in 
which other people acquiesced indifferently. There was 
no fraction of the day in which he could relapse, like 
other people, into careless unperceptive ease. The room 
of which he had to learn every detail, the face of which 
every lineament must be traced, the landscape full of 
trees and roads and houses to be noted and accounted 
for, they all kept him at a strain of occupation ; and his 
only relief was in a shift from one task to another, a 
change of activity that was punctual, and no wonder, 
from hour to hour. This fierce exposure to the day long 
assault of impressions explained a great deal in the 

i6 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

routine of his life, which so often appeared to be at once 
too rigid and too feverish, too tightly bound in habits 
that might not be broken, too perilously crammed with 
engagements, bits of business of all kinds, beyond any- 
thing that could in reason be required of him. He used 
to envy the friend whom he saw sitting indolent and 
placid, staring out of window, wasting time. He could 
never refresh himself in that way; and least of all could 
he allow his effort to relax, his mind to wander idly, 
when the passing minutes were shared by a companion. 
Then he was doubly employed; he had to save the 
occasion twice over, for himself and for that other; 
and the other must be dull or perverse indeed if the 
double success was not achieved. 

It was usually achieved on the spot, and a casual 
acquaintance had become a friendship on a comfortable 
footing. So it appeared to both of them, and with 
justice; and in the kindly words and sentiments with 
which they parted there was only one possibility of mis- 
conception, and that perhaps by both of them easily 
overlooked. And after all it was not very serious. If 
the new friend felt that he had been admitted into deeper 
intimacy than was really the fact, at any rate he had had 
his agreeable hour, he was not to be pitied; and if Arthur 
Benson was occasionally distraught to find that more was 
expected where he had given so much, he too might 
console and defend himself without much difficulty. 
He learned, I judge, by experience that his pleasant power 
of making people swiftly his friends could bring its own 
embarrassment now and then — bring claims upon his 
time, attention, sympathy, for which he was not prepared; 
but when all was said and he had made his complaint, 
it was no great price to pay for an enviable talent. Of 
all his gifts as a schoolmaster among boys, as a don 
among undergraduates, it was probably the first and 
best; and I dare say it was not less valuable when he was 
a schoolmaster among his colleagues and a don among 
dons. In these capacities he will presently be seen at 
closer quarters; but meanwhile let a glimpse be taken of 
him in any congenial circle, at any time — and there he 

B 17 



THE DIARY OF 

is all gaiety and volubility and good-humour, cordially 
disposed, comfortable in the world. We have the look of 
him by heart— sitting low in his chair, ruddy and bulky 
and rough-haired, twitching his cigarette with restless 
fingers, throwing back his head with his enjoyable 
infectious laugh; and this is a sight to be recalled 
again and again and lingered over, now that he is gone, 
and now that we are faced by a portrait of him, in his 
diary, wherein his true likeness is at many a point missed 
entirely. Introspective as he was often believed to be, 
absorbed in contemplation of his own peculiarities, in 
fact he never knew himself well enough to record 
himself aright. Here is one thing, the geniality of 
his presence, which he failed to see as others always 



saw It. 



On the other hand he was quite aware how jealously 
he guarded his independence. "Don't make your 
house in my mind "—that was a phrase he used to quote 
from Aristophanes, and one could see how instinctively 
he put out his hands and warded off the danger of en- 
croachment. Nobody must invade his mind, force his 
inclination, " hustle " him— it was a frequent word of 
his, he ruffled and bristled at the suggestion. He 
clutched his liberty; he never surrendered a jot of it — 
and not only that, but if ever on any pretext it was 
threatened, in love or strife, he lost all scruple in protect- 
ing himself, he thought of nothing but to rout and 
disable the intruder. Why should people desire to press 
in upon him, when he was always so ready to meet them 
in the doorway and talk agreeably on the threshold ? It 
was not as though he was stiff with them out there, or 
distant in his greeting; far from it indeed — he talked 
with the utmost freedom, he would frankly answer any 
question they liked to ask. Less than anybody was he 
disposed to make a secret of his privacy; it was for all who 
cared to hear him tell about it. But that must suffice — 



i8 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

and why should it not ? He thought it might suffice, 
as in the lives of others it was all he dreamed ot 
demanding for himself. Anyhow he could not admit 
the kind of interference which asks for more than 
can be told upon the threshold; and if more was 
insisted on, if a place and a lodging was required in 
the seclusion of his mind — then there was likely to 
be trouble. 

In all this perhaps he did not differ by much from 
other men-^-or differed chiefly on a single point, an 
important one, of which more must be said in a moment. 
He was like enough to other men, at all events, for many 
old and sound and imperturbable friendships to centre 
in him. The friends of his youth were his friends till he 
died, or they — for several of the nearest, among them 
the closest of all, died before him. These had been 
with him since his schooldays; some were of his own 
generation, not a few of an older, and his tie with them 
all was of a kind that changes and chances do not touch. 
It is there to prove that when he talks, as he does, about the 
coldness of his heart and the slackness of his affections, 
the words are not to be taken as seriously as they 
sound. He went his own way through life and did his 
own work, and when his path fell in with that of his old 
friends he welcomed the meeting and made the most of 
it, and when it happened again nothing had been lost 
in absence and more was added; and if this is a poor 
account of friendship it may be asked whether most 
men have a better to produce — or whether they need 
wish for a better. As for his chilly and unfeeling 
disposition, I may call it famous among his friends, so 
much they heard of it; but this could hardly be the right 
explanation of their reproach, always one and the same 
— which amounted to the complaint that they could 
never see enough of him. The man he thought 
himself is not the man who is sought as eagerly and 
lost as regretfully as Arthur Benson. 

These were the friends who understood him and 
whom he understood — a notable company, going and 
coming in the pages of this book. They knew him too 

19 



THE DIARY OF 

well to be affected by that idiosyncrasy to which I have 
alluded — not his care for his independence and not his 
love of his own way and work, but something more 
unusual and in the house of friendship more hazardous. 
It was his prompt command of words and his perennial 
inclination to use them — it was that. Nobody ever 
perplexed his relations in the world more inveterately 
by too much talk about them, too much explanation 
and justification, above all by too much brilliant and 
incisive correspondence. He could not leave a disturbed 
situation alone, to straighten itself out in a little peace 
and silence; and at any rate in his later years it took a 
small thing to start a disturbance. It was begun, 
perhaps, by somebody's luckless desire to beset him too 
closely, to engage him with over-urgent calls upon his 
intimacy; or it was begun, on the contrary, by some- 
body's graceless and wilful neglect of his just demands: 
anyhow he struck out at once, his phrases flew; and in a 
trice the little embarrassment was defined and hardened, 
and there was an alliance, new or old, that had some- 
how gone askew, and he could not tell why. " I have 
written him " (or more often " her," perhaps) " a long 
and careful letter"; when he said this it was always 
ominous; and though the ensuing flurry of replies and 
counter-replies, qualifying and clarifying and eternally 
justifying, might be exhilarating for a time, he forgot 
too easily that his pen was very sharp. Well, it all 
arose from a genuine wish to avoid ambiguity, and 
it ended in his protest, yet again, that he was incapable 
of a fine and warm and generous devotion. He 
could only envy those who were more bountifully 
endowed. 

I think once more that with all his self-scrutiny he 
was wrong. Not coldness it was, but an old strict use 
of precaution, a rule of safety, which he recognised with 
dislike, though with the best of wills he could never 
infringe it. He responded very quickly in fondness and 
warmth so long as the rule was observed and his own 
terms were inviolate. And then there was something 
else, his masterfulness, that told for more than he was 

20 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

aware of in his dealings with his neighbours. Did 
he indeed suppose himself to be a gentle shrinking 
apologetic soul, readily daunted, inapt for controversy? 
Not quite, no doubt, though he loved to persuade you 
that he did; but of the true fact he seemed to be really 
unaware, that he controlled and commanded like an 
autocrat. His later and younger friends, to whom his 
kindness and his sympathy were beyond estimation, had 
nevertheless to learn that his authority was easily 
affronted. He did not, in point of fact, consider the 
independence of others as carefully as he defended his 
own; and the day of collision, if it came, found him 
combative, unsparing, not in the least inclined to 
placable forbearance. He laid about him lustily, he 
discharged his indignation with memorable effect. He 
gave, first and last, a good deal of pain, by no means 
without intention at the moment; but after all the 
intention was loose and light in his mind when the shaft 
had flown, and it surprised him to learn that the barb 
had stuck where it hit. He certainly did like power, 
and he used it without shame — and yet ingenuously, too, 
deceiving nobody but himself, and with a sense of the 
fun of it all that was young and exuberant to the end. 
The stirring adventure of discovering and using one's 
force — he plunged into it again and again, gay and fresh 
as a beginner. 



IV 

The shadow of a strange and difficult illness fell on 
him several times in his life, changing everything while 
it lasted, and more than once it lasted for years. The 
green world that he loved was turned to dust, and he 
suffered in bewilderment and misery. This we know; 
but we remember too, and it should be clearly noted, 
that when the shadow lifted it passed completely; not a 
trace of it was left to trouble the good times. He 
enjoyed the pleasure of the day again exactly as before, or 
only with the heightened excitement of release; he came 

21 



THE DIARY OF 

out undamaged, undimmed, and even — what was odder, 
though agreeable, too — uninstructed, having learnt noth- 
ing and forgotten nothing in distress. These terrors 
were deep and dire; they were far the most searching 
experience of his life, and he was hardly grown a 
man when he knew them first; yet they counted as 
nothing at all when they were gone. And this, which 
could only be matter for thankfulness, is an illustration 
of his singular power to evade the penalties of time — 
and doubtless more than its penalties, some of its rewards 
as well. So long as he was happy in mind it seemed 
that time had no effect on him; and I am not referring 
to his physical robustness, remarkable as that was too. 
His life in his work, in his many and varied occupations, 
was broader and fuller and busier year by year; 
but his life within was a life that never grew old, 
never was shaped or stiffened by maturity, never came 
of age. 

The youthfulness of the temper of his mind was 
doubly revealed — in the freshness of his curiosity and 
his perception, in the lightness and slightness of his 
wayward judgment. What were his opinions? He had 
them in plenty, they sprang up at a touch, on all sides, 
lively and vigorous, alert to the least word of challenge. 
But what were his settled opinions, his convictions, 
the faith that he held in solitude? — for that other 
proliferation had a fortuitous air, it was the flowering of 
the moment. As for his principles, his general ideas, 
though he certainly had no will to conceal them, there 
was a difficulty in discovering what remained when the 
rich tangle of contention and contradiction was cleared 
away. Not very much remained, perhaps; for the truth 
was that his mind escaped as undisciplined, as unschooled, 
as the breeze that blows in the wildwood. He always 
loved freedom and he always hated tyranny; was that not 
enough consistency for a working faith? It was all that 
was left him, at any rate; and perhaps the rule he attacked 
was not the most unreasonable, perhaps the freedom he 
ensued was not very closely defined; but one thing was 
sure — that his argument, supple and easy and abundant, 

22 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

was much more amusing than any of his opponent's. 
When it came to words the rest of us were nowhere; for 
while we were painfully seeking and measuring our 
phrases, his own were cracking about our ears with an 
advantage that he was prompt to use. Exasperating in 
dispute he often was, so ready, so elusive, so unfair; but 
he was never dull. 

He gave himself away with both hands, cheerful and 
careless. He fell upon the time-honoured riddles of 
life and death, art and philosophy, faith and morals, as 
irresponsibly as though no one had given them a thought 
before him; new every morning, fresh for debate, was 
the perplexity of the freedom of the will, the meaning 
of evil, the way of all flesh. How can a man, with these 
fascinating mysteries ever before him, exhaust his wonder 
and leave speculation to the pundits .f* He could not, for 
one; to him they remained as enticing as ever they have 
seemed to curious candid youth. And as with the 
daring of youth he delivered his thought on these high 
matters, so with unaging quickness of eye and humour 
he watched the world about him, near at hand — a world 
of a well-marked horizon, not large, but it was more 
than enough to gratify his appetite for amusing detail. 
He was pleased with everything he saw; he did not ask 
for wonders and rarities, he preferred the shelter of the 
life he had made for himself, and the sober landscape of 
his choice; but nothing escaped him within it, and from 
the romance of its beauty to the jest of its absurdity he 
loved it all. And not only on the delights, he thrived 
too on the impatient irritations and vexations of the day; 
they did their part to sharpen the zest with which, in the 
good unshadowed times, he devoured the hour. No 
doubt he lived and thought and worked too fast — too 
fast for safety, as it certainly was for the best of care and 
finish. But if he paid heavily for the years of enjoyment, 
at least he enjoyed them. The spirit of his vitality was 
none the maturer for age or pain, but it was unquenched 
by either. 



23 



THE DIARY OF 



With all this, with his happiness and his prosperity, 
with his pleasure in his gifts, in his work, in his 
congenial lot, there was something amiss with his ease, 
some disharmony even in the good times; he was never, 
it seemed, entirely and securely at hom^e with himself. 
It was not that his crowded days so flagrantly belied the 
gospel of meditative tranquillity which he loved to 
preach; that was a contradiction too open and notorious 
to be troublesome. But there was a deeper misgiving, 
a more insidious; and I would not say that in health and 
strength it vexed him much, but it had its effect — I come 
round to it now — its unmistakable effect on the tone of 
his talk to himself, his soliloquy in his diary. He had 
never made sure, never been forced to make sure, of the 
ground he stood on; he had never discovered himself, 
worked out his own salvation. And so his solitude, 
guarded as it was from the intrusion of man or woman, 
wanted the last and inmost confidence; and more and 
more, as the years went on, this failure of assurance, 
beneath so much that was vigorously assured, made 
itself felt. He well knew what he had missed, he 
lamented it; but he also knew, or he thought he knew, 
that the ways by which most men attain their sufliciency 
were closed to him. They were closed by those old 
habits of prudence which he deplored; but then those 
habits again, it was useless to say they should be broken. 
If he had been the man to break them he would not have 
been the man to form them; and he left the melancholy 
truth at that, with a sigh — not a very deep or doleful 
sigh, when all is said. 

But it is to this malease, haunting his seclusion, that 
I trace a strain of inhospitality, disrelish, perversity- — 
whatever it is to be called — which often appears in his 
expatiation to himself, and which might suggest as often 
that he was ungracious to a world where he moved in 
fact so happily, so genially. The whole day was stirring 
and stimulating, it all passed in a round of absorbing 

24 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

tasks and mirthful meetings; and then, when he was 
alone with his note-book — not always, far from it, but 
not seldom either — the warmth went out of his thought, 
some chill of discontent, of disparagement passed into it; 
and the day was portrayed in a light too sharp and unkind 
for the pleasant fact. It is a kind of amends that he 
makes to himself for the diligence of his friendliness in 
society; and it means that he cannot sufficiently rest upon 
himself, upon his own belief in himself, for liberal and 
composed reflection. The warning is needless,very likely, 
in respect of the pages that follow, so small a fraction 
as they must be of the whole vast number in the diary; 
but still it is as well to put it plainly — Arthur Benson was 
the last man in the world of whom it could be said that 
he lived with a grievance. He lived, on the contrary, 
with a warm and conscious satisfaction in the many good 
things of his life, and he had an exceptional power of 
imparting his pleasure to his companions. He utterly 
misrepresents himself if he persuades his reader to think 
otherwise. 

For indeed his addiction to musing and ruminating 
on paper, pensively regarding himself, gazing into the 
mirror of his temperament — this was something that 
seemed to be dropped into a character where it did not 
in the least belong. He was a masterful practical man, 
of strong preferences and determined will; he was a man 
of swift imagination and temper, acutely sensitive to 
passing impressions, quick to perceive and to forget; an 
impatient lover of beauty, an inspiriting companion, an 
imperious friend. He was an artist of many talents, 
blessed or afl^icted with a facility which he had not the 
weight to stem; he worked voraciously, with the lightness 
of hand of a craftsman, but with no tenacity, no faithful 
desire for perfection. He was a memorable master of 
youth — master rather than teacher or trainer; an inspirer 
of loyalty, an awakener of admiration and devotion, 
firing enthusiasm rather than guiding or fortifying it. 
Such he was, so he remains with us; and with this 
memory the picture he made of himself, in colours so 
far less intense and decided, will never rightly accord. 

25 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

That discrepancy points to a deeper and obscurer within 
him, a rift in a nature never in all its parts adjusted 
with itself. But if that disquietude was always there 
it was easily borne, easily forgotten in the engrossing 
business of the day; and it gave no uncertainty to the 
mark he left upon all who knew him and who miss 
him now. 

Percy Lubbock 



26 



1897 — 1^99 

In the summer holidays of 1897, during a visit to a 
familiar and well-loved house in North Wales, Arthur 
Benson began to scribble in a note-book an account 
of his days. " Waited for an hour at the station at 
Portmadoc; hung on the bridge for half the time; 
two little Welsh boys talking funnily ": such was 
the casual opening of a narrative that was to last 
unbroken, or very nearly so, for twenty-eight years. 
There was a reason for its beginning just then. That 
summer there had been privately printed a volume 
which had a deep effect on him, the Letters and 
Journals of William Johnson (afterwards Cory), author 
of lonica ; and this book, with its poetic evocation of 
the life of another- Eton master, had inspired him 
to keep a regular diary of his own, for the first time. 
He began, and the habit soon had hold of him. He 
carried the note-book with him to Eton, when he 
returned there after the holidays, and in the pressure 
of work he still contrived to maintain a fairly connected 
chronicle — slight and unmethodical at first, but gradu- 
ally it settled down to a steady and copious stream of 
the detail of the day. 

That August in North Wales — he was now aged 
thirty-five, and had been a master at Eton for twelve 
years — is thus by chance a crucial date in his 
biography. Nothing thereafter happened to him from 
without, of any importance whatever, which is not 
recorded in the diary; day by day, from this time 

27 



THE DIARY OF 

onward, he may be watched and followed in all his 
movements and occupations. The sudden flood of 
revelation, breaking in upon his journey, finds him at 
the height of his life and work at Eton — fortunate in 
his powers, successful in their exercise, with a notable 
place and repute among his boys, among his colleagues, 
among Etonians generally. He was a schoolmaster 
singled out for independence, for originality, for a 
peculiar portion of tact and understanding in the 
management of the young. He had held a house for 
the last five years, and had made it one of the best and 
most popular in the school. He was regarded 
as a likely headmaster in the future. He was also a 
recognised man of letters, with several volumes of 
verse and prose to his name. Moreover he was now, 
after an earlier time of nervous stress and strain, in 
vigorous health and spirits, equal to his work, bearing 
its responsibilities with practised ease. In short, it 
was a good moment, full of satisfaction and interest, 
the future opening before it with abundant promise. 
It is true that he was rather unsettled in his mind, not 
entirely contented in his calling; his ambitions were 
divided; they pulled him steadily towards literature, 
doubtfully in the line of his profession. But this 
conflict was hardly acute as yet, and six of his most 
fruitful and strenuous years as a schoolmaster were 
still to come. And now, before the diary is opened, 
a rapid account may be given of his course to this 
point, the point where it becomes at a stroke so plain 
to see and follow. 

Arthur Christopher Benson was born on April 24, 
1862, at Wellington College, in Berkshire. He was 
the second son of Edward White Benson, then head- 
master of Wellington, and his wife (who was also his 
cousin) Mary Sidgwick. Arthur's elder brother, 
Martin, died as a schoolboy at Winchester in 1877. 
His younger brothers were Edward Frederick and 
Robert Hugh, his sisters were Mary Eleanor and 
Margaret — names that here need no more than to be 

28 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

mentioned, for each has its own distinction in this 
remarkable fl^mily. Their father became Chancellor 
of Lincoln in 1872, Bishop of Truro in 1877, and 
Archbishop of Canterbury in 1883. Arthur went 
first to school at Temple Grove, East Sheen, and then 
in 1874 as a colleger to Eton. In 1881 he went on 
to Cambridge, with a scholarship at King's. He was 
in the first class of the Classical Tripos in 1884. In 
the same year he was offered and accepted a master- 
ship at Eton. And again, perhaps, it is needless to 
do more than to give these facts and dates in order, 
since the story of his early days has been told in 
fullness by Arthur himself, and also, from another 
angle of vision, by his surviving brother. The triple 
memory of Wellington, Lincoln, Truro, the work 
their father accomplished in these places and the part 
they played in the children's lives, is intimately 
shared by all the readers of the children's books. I 
need not attempt to tell the story again, but only to 
recall how deeply Arthur was still influenced in later 
life by certain of the traditions of his childhood. 

He was born in a school, the son of a schoolmaster; 
the whole of his career was divided between Eton and 
Cambridge, and he died the master of his adopted col- 
lege. But for all that he was never really scholastic, and 
still less academic. Neither school nor university set its 
stamp on him; he evaded their influence, he was always 
at heart a sojourner in both, sitting loosely; at any 
moment he could leave them and feel no urgent call 
to return. There was a much stronger appeal for 
him elsewhere; it was in the precinct of a cathedral 
that he knew himself to be truly at home. Not 
Wellington and not schoolmastcring, but Lincoln, the 
hierarchy of the close, the realm of the dean 
and chapter, planted in him the deepest and most 
enduring associations. These also, no doubt, he carried 
lightly, for they, no more than any others, could 
constrain him; but it was these that he instinctively 
understood, that he possessed as his own, after a 
manner in which he never possessed or understood 

29 



THE DIARY OF 

the tradition of school or college. He always said that 
he knew the language of the minster-world as he 
knew no other; and though he was not often to be seen 
in it, the threads of his communication with the back- 
ground of his youth were many and unbroken to the 
end. He was the least ecclesiastically minded of 
men, with all his thought revolting briskly against the 
forms and sanctions of authority; nor was he tender 
in piety towards the dignified influences of his past. 
But none the less they clung to him, and to the last of 
his days he was nowhere quite so much at his ease, 
quite so certain of his familiar understanding, as with 
the Church. 

As for his boyhood, the suggestion of all his 
surroundings at that time was irresistible; he had no 
doubt that he would take orders, devote himself to a 
cure in a country parish, and peaceably proceed to 
some pleasant canonry or deanery in the distance. 
That was the natural prospect, and it had not been 
abandoned, I gather, v/hen the offer of work at Eton, 
just after he had taken his Cambridge degree, made 
up his mind for him otherwise. He always spoke as 
though he had only drifted into his profession along 
the line of least resistance; and this may not have been 
all the truth, but it is clear that at that time, in his 
twenty-third year, he was in a state of great agitation 
and irresolution, with more than the normal pains of 
youth and growth. A crisis of emotion and religion, 
no matter exactly how they were mixed, had plunged 
him into dark depression — so dark and deep that after 
many years he still looked back on his days as an 
undergraduate with dismay. Out of that ferment of 
trouble came his first book, a fictitious Memoir of 
Arthur Hamilton^ which attracted some attention, much 
to his annoyance ever after, by a certain vividness 
in it of uneasy immaturity. And so at the beginning of 
1885, straight from Cambridge and these distresses, 
he took his place, and started his work at Eton. 

It was a misfortune that he was called back to school 
so soon, with no interval left him in which to wander 

30 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

and collect his mind and broaden his experience. His 
life was entirely shaped for him, he had no opportunity 
to venture for himself; he got no freedom until the 
lines on which he could use it were fixed beyond 
changing. This he never ceased to regret, with good 
reason; he had been too promptly tied to a part and a 
position of his own. And yet in a way it mattered 
less to him than to another; for he was not a man whom 
any part or position could unduly impound — and this 
was the healthy side of what was also his unrest, his 
inconstancy. To have missed his chance to roam 
would never make him acquiescent, conventionally 
stiffened in the ways of his calling. Anyhow he set to 
work in good heart, apprehending no difficulties and 
apparently finding none. He controlled his fourth- 
form division and his rapidly filled pupil-room — I 
have to assume that I need not explain the *' Eton 
system " of his day, as indeed it is said that it is only 
known to Etonians and not by them to be explained 
— he was easily successful, then, from the first, both 
as a division-master and as a classical tutor. Too 
easily indeed — as perhaps it may have seemed to the 
most severe; and certainly there was no anxious theory 
in his method at any time, nor any painfully studied 
practice. But with friendliness and humour, with 
ready speech and courteous decision, with a gift for 
making his wrath uncomfortable and his favour 
gratifying — with all this beside his discernment, his 
insight into the working of the mind and spirit of 
a boy — he had more than enough to carry him 
prosperously over his first years as a schoolmaster. 
He was appointed to a boarding-house in 1892; but 
of his house and what he was for it, what he did 
for it, there will be more to say. 

Meanwhile he lodged with his colleague and friend 
Edward Lyttelton in the house called Baldwin's Shore, 
by Barnes Pool — there first, and then by himself in 
rooms over Williams's bookshop, opposite the west 
end of chapel. Of his other friends in the place, 
Herbert Tatham was then and afterwards (till he died 

31 



THE DIARY OF 

in 1909) always the nearest — his is a name and a 
memory to be set beside Arthur Benson's in any 
account of those years; and there were many more who 
will presently be met in the diary, older and younger 
colleagues, his constant companions in mutual hospi- 
tality through the half and the holidays. The life of 
Eton absorbed him more and more; but it always left 
room — or by careful economy of time it was made to 
leave room — for plentiful literary work, mostly verse 
for some years to come; and on that side of his interests 
he soon touched the world of letters outside Eton, 
mainly by the offices of a friend, Edmund Gosse, with 
whom his alliance was thenceforward lifelong. And 
then there was always Lambeth, or more generally 
Addington, for a home in the holidays, though neither 
of these places ever attached him like the provinces of 
his youth. On the whole it was with Eton and his 
friends of Eton that the years were filled ; but it is not 
to be forgotten that Eton is the centre of a very large 
radiation, and that the circle of an Eton tutor takes a 
broad sweep through English life. The master of a 
pupil-room, and soon of a house, so popular as 
Arthur Benson's had friends everywhere, a range of 
acquaintance and affiliation which spread far and wide 
as time went on. 

His first boarding-house w?s one of the two, the 
low white one, which then stood on the site of the 
present School Hall; from whence he soon moved to 
that which is now called Gulliver's, after its ancient 
dame of the last century; and thence again in 1895 
to a house by the back-entrance of Brewer's Yard — a 
double house, its two halves joined by a passage-way 
over the gate of the yard. The lesser half, the 
" cottage," still survives, and the archway too; but the 
main building, with its comfortable old bow-windows, 
and the huge wistaria-trunk that hung across the low 
front-door, perished by conflagration many years ago, 
and a new house, Baldwin's End, stands in its place. 
In these migrations, I may be allowed to say in 
passing, this present editor was one of the flock that 

32 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

accompanied him; and it was in the twin buildinp: by 
Brewer's Yard, looking out from that secluded corner 
ov'er garden and field to Windsor Castle, that we 
attained our due rank in the school as a full-sized 
house, with a position of our own and a growing record 
of success. An Eton house is a compact polity, a 
city-state within the large vague boundary of the 
school; and we inside our walls lived a life that was 
informed and ordered, more than we knew, by its 
presiding genius. His rule was very liberal; he had a 
summary way with details and trivialities, he brushed 
them aside and talked to us like a friendly host; there 
was nothing narrow or parochial in the easy circle of 
his influence. But he was paramount, he was absolute 
in his rule, and our freedom was never laxity; nor 
was it entrusted to our own guiding and disposing as 
much as perhaps we thought. To give a young 
disciple the sense of greater responsibility than he is 
really allowed — that is surely the stroke of a clever- 
handed master. It was Arthur Benson's, without doubt. 
He acted swiftly in discipline, never tediously or 
provocatively; and we seemed to live in the free air of 
the world, like rational beings. 

And so we reach the year 1897, " diamond jubilee 
year," and a midsummer half much occupied with 
rehearsals in the playing-fields for our torchlight 
parade before the Queen at the Castle — evolutions, 
intricate pattern-weavings, shot through in memory by 
the great boom of the voice of the Head, our tremen- 
dous Warre. These preparations, and the Queen's visit 
to Eton, and then the flaring and songful parade itself, 
successfully achieved on its night, brought history 
into that half for all of us — and in a special fashion, 
as it chanced, for Arthur Benson. He wrote the words 
of one of our songs, a lyrical tribute to Herself; and 
this may count as the modest beginning of an affair 
touching royalty that was to grow to importance for 
him later on. There was soon a time when he 
appeared an unofficial laureate of the Court, so punc- 
tually he was in demand for poems, hymns, canticles 

c 33 



THE DIARY OF 

on various occasions of interest to Queen Victoria; 
and so it went on till, after she was gone, a weightier 
behest from the Castle brought his long-desired release 
from school. For already in 1897 the routine of his 
work so oppressed him at times that he began to 
reckon his resources, exploring possibilities of escape; 
but these were as yet too doubtful and hazardous for 
a decided step. However, it mattered the less because 
he had now at last shaken off, it seemed, that trouble 
of his nerves which had distressed him periodically since 
his Cambridge days — and very badly in particular 
(we little guessed it at the time) during his first 
years as a housemaster. He rejoiced in the relief; 
though the other burden, the school-work, more and 
more vexed him as needlessly heavy, wasteful of 
strength and effort. It was the " system " ; his vigorous 
indictment of it, heart-felt, loudly ingeminated in 
later days, had begun. 

And then, to complete the account of his situation 
at this moment, a loss had recently fallen upon him, 
affecting him very deeply, bringing great changes in 
the background of his life. His father, Archbishop 
of Canterbury since 1883, had died very suddenly the 
year before — sunk down and died while he knelt on a 
Sunday morning in Hawarden Church. The influence 
of that remarkable man upon his son has been 
described by the son — an influence that partly defeated 
itself, it would seem, in early days, so exactingly, so 
purposefully it was exerted; but still it was the greatest 
of facts in the lives of all the children, and on Arthur 
perhaps it had never been stronger than it had grown 
to be of late, in increasing intimacy with his father. 
Nor was it lessened now, it was enhanced rather; for 
in writing the life of the Archbishop (it was his chief 
literary task for the next two years) his fuller discovery 
of him, his deepened sense of his father's singular 
genius, abidingly impressed his imagination. They 
were very unlike each other, the father with his high 
moral fervour and the son with his versatile impatience; 
it was in the eager, the far more flexible and penetrat- 

34 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1897 

ing sympathy of his mother that Arthur found the 
truest understanding, then and ever. But the thought 
of his father was constantly with him as he grew 
older — how constantly, how intensely is shown 
by a frequent note in the diar}^: " Dreamt with 
extraordinary vividness of E.W.B." 

And now to open the first of the hundred-and-eightv' 
little volumes — with a few glimpses of him in his 
work at Eton, on various days of the Michaelmas 
half, 1897. 

" A new division, sitting like mice, all demure; they 
seem amiable and serious. I wonder what W.J. would 
have said at the decorum, the discipline, the friendliness 
that new prevail. I hardly ever raise my voice above a 
conversational tone, and very rarely set a punishment. 
But it's a precarious trade, and depends much on calm 
nerves." 

" Last Sunday I lectured on Philemon with great care 
— I thought successfully. I read Pliny's letter on a 
similar subject. By Wednesday evening Eddy Cadogan 
had forgotten that I had said anything, and did not know 
who Philemon was: ' I get so mixed about the Epistles, 
sir ' — had never heard (he said) of Onesimus. A good 
lesson to me^ at all events." 

" Warre consulted me whether he should set books 
for private reading, to be marked in Trials. I criticised 
details. But this won't give a love of reading — the 
bribing and paying is bad. Athletics are the only serious 
thing; literature is thought an amiable foible. I have a 
jcjo boys who respect knowledge. But the only time 
when real gravity and momentousness comes into a boy's 
face is when _>'{/« talk of serious faults, or when they talk of 
athletics." 

'* I am very busy: rather happy: God knows I am not 
complacent ... I am nobody in this busy place except 
a pleasant, sociable person, rather reclusive, but amiable 
when extracted. I have no influence or weight. My 
business capacities are mistrusted, my accuracy doubted, 
my originative powers discredited, my ' auctoritas ' 



1 897] THE DIARY OF 

non-existent. I do not mind this, but it keeps me 
humble, I hope." 

'* I have my hands too full, but on the whole I get 
more happiness from over-fulness. The result of it 
is a kind of despair and irritability, while the result of 
leisure and insufficient work is with me inevitable 
depression. 

" To-day I sit for an hour and a half rewriting a copy 
of Latin Alcaics by C. on ' Strikes.' They are quite 
worthless. C. has no sort of scholarship or literary 
taste; he is to give up classics for history the moment he 
leaves. The work racks my brain — it is the hardest 
work I have to do — and it is poor enough when done, 
because the subject is impossible. Meanwhile to do 
this I scamp my history paper, cannot give a word of 
help to my fourth-form boys in pupil-room. And C. 
does not know v/hat it means, and Warre probably does 
not look it over; but this form of work is what is called 
the Eton system — to crush the master under mechanical 
and useless work, give him no scope for stimulating work 
with his pupils, knock him up with exhaustion, and for 
two or three boys who don't read what is written and 
don't know whether it is good or bad. This will be 
incredible fifty years hence. 

" My division still very demure and seemingly awed. 
I dare say I shall find out my mistake. They do not see 
my jests, but look gravely at me and make a note." 

These are characteristic moments and moods, 
lightly noted as they passed and not to be lingered 
over now. A fuller and more continuous picture of 
his life at Eton it will unfortunately not be possible to 
find in his diary for some time to come — and this for 
more than one reason. The work of the week, with 
Latin Alcaics and lectures on Philemon and the like 
scattered thickly over the ever-present cares and 
claims of his house — all this was too close to him and 
too insistent to be sketched at large in his note-book. 
And he was rather slow in acquiring a confident and 
easy tone for his diary's reflections on the day; I notice, 

36 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1897 

for instance, what he says about his unconsidered state 
at Eton, and I know that he well knew that he was 
far from being " nobody in this place." He is not 
yet entirely alone with himself as he writes. " In 
this long gap," he mentions one day, " the book has 
been paying calls — to Lady Ponsonby and others ": 
very pleasant for them all, no doubt, but a frank free 
journal needs to live more secluded, and this one was 
at first too apt to take the air. " That story, mind," 
Lady Ponsonby herself remarks later on, after a con- 
versation, "is not for your too accessible diary!" 
And the diary, till at length it retired into greater 
privacy, suffered more than the loss of the anecdote 
in question. The touch of constraint is very light, 
but it is felt. 

The same good friend reproached him, it appears, 
for always spending his holidays in the company of his 
colleagues; and it is true that his holidays by this time 
had a pattern from which they seldom varied. Once 
he used to go abroad — with small enthusiasm, and not 
often at that; three or four times to Italy and Spain, 
and then occasionally to Switzerland, with a short- 
lived inclination towards Alpine climbing. It was 
strange to see how completely incurious about foreign 
parts he remained thereafter; in thirty years he never 
crossed the sea but once, and then only on doctor's 
orders. All his mterests were limited by the British 
coast, lively as they were within it; foreign ways dis- 
agreed with him, foreign tongues baffled him — he 
preferred to stay at home. And at home he could 
rarely be tempted to venture into strange houses; so 
that a Christmas holiday in which he actually visited 
two — Malwood and Claremont, no less — must be 
recalled as against his friend's rebuke. With Sir 
William Harcourt and his family he had older associa- 
tions; but when, m this December of 1897, he stayed 
with the Duchess of Albany at Claremont, he made 
the beginning of a firm friendship of many years, and 
presently her young son was a lower-boy in his house. 
In the same holidays, moreover, he is found at 

37 



1898] THE DIARY OF 

Farnham Castle, with Bishop Davidson of Winchester; 
but there he was in a circle where he was all but son and 
brother, so many and so close were the ties between his 
own family and that of his father's former chaplain — 
soon to become Archbishop of Canterbury in his turn. 

In general, however, his vacations were very like 
each other. There were in those days two familiar 
houses on which a great deal of Eton converged in 
holiday-time, homes of lavish hospitality to many, to 
Arthur Benson among the first; and both these houses, 
with the friends and colleagues who presided in them, 
had a larger place in his life than a few words can 
describe. To Dunskey, in Scotland, and to Tan-yr- 
allt, in North Wales, he returned again and again; 
with Stuart Donaldson and his family at Dunskey, 
with Arthur Ainger (and often with Howard Sturgis, 
a joint-host) at Tan, he was among some of his most 
constant companions at Eton. And if he was not stay- 
ing with them in one place or the other, he was likely 
to be established with Herbert Tatham in some 
provincial inn, exploring the countryside with a 
thorough-going zeal that was never to be exhausted. 
Or else he was at Winchester, where his mother had 
now settled for a time; and so the holidays slipped 
away, and he was back at school again, rather un- 
willingly, with a spirit that sank at the thought of the 
drudgery of the crowded weeks, though rising to 
vanquish it very soon. 

It is now the summer of 1898; and I recall his easy 
and agreeable control of the talk " at dinner and other 
times," how he freshened it out of the staleness of our 
common routine, as I read the first of the notes that 
follow. 

" I think the big boys in the house full of tact. They 
labour to talk to me on general subjects at dinner and 
other times, and not only don't expect me to talk 
athletics, but if the talk veers round thither, steer me 
away for fear of my betraying my ignorance, with 
delightful geniality." 

38 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1898 

" I wrote two sonnets in the evening before dinner. 
I find myself much slower at writing poetry and much 
less disposed to do it than two years ago. 1 don't think 
I have the real spring. I think I have a certain power of 
feeling the interest of certain aspects of nature; I have a 
somewhat microscopic eye, and find more beauty in 
hedgerows, deserted quarries, little pools and streams, 
railway-cuttings, back-gardens, than I do in great 
panoramas of mountains or in sensational prospects. I 
have a certain facility in language, and now and then a 
gleam of artistic excitement. But this is not enough, and 
I must, I think, resign all hopes of a poetical future. I 
fancy that two or three of my poems may get included 
in Victorian anthologies, but I cannot be a " bright 
particular star." John Lane has just sent me an 
account: my Poems out of print — 260 of the Lyrics left 
and 230 of Lord Vyet. I shall publish one more 
volume and then shut up shop." 

" My division awfully nice and good, patient, silent, 
attentive, obedient and rather interested. I wander wide 
in talk. But the classics are poor pabulum, I fear. I live 
in dread of the public finding out how bad an education 
is the only one I can communicate. We do nothing 
to train fancy, memory, taste, imagination; we do not 
stimulate. We only make the ordinary boy hate and 
despise books and knowledge generally; but we make 
them conscientious — good drudges, I think." 

" (The end of the half). I have had a meek division, 
over whom I think I have rather tyrannised: very good, 
obedient, and on the whole keen pupils: and a perfectly 
angelic house — halycon days. ... I seem to get credit 
for anything that I do just now. I must throw my ring 
into the sea." 

" (At Dunskey). I discussed marriage with Miss 
Browne. We decided that the old maid was much 
happier than the old bachelor, because she generally had 
a circle and home ties — no such selfish ineffective loneli- 
ness as the old bachelor. True, I think. I wish I saw 
my way out. The engagement of both Mason and 
Carter, the only two members of the celibate brotherhood 

39 



1898] THE DIARY OF 

of Truro, gives me hope; but I don't think it is good to 
marry after forty. Still I can believe that it is wisely 
withheld from me, partly as a lenis castigatio for my 
many infirmities and partly because I am not loyal- 
hearted. 

** I am thankful the summer is over. What a strange 
and wonderful thing that I should be here, so richly 
surrounded with sweet things and good graceful people 
when I deserve so little. I never used to think I should 
live to be thirty, and even now I never dare to look for- 
ward more than a few months. It is inconceivable to 
me to think that the world will go marching on year after 
year and that I may still be there. And if not, where.'' 
... I drove away (from Dunskey) with sinking heart — 
tears in my eyes — like a schoolboy going to school. All 
evening I thought of what they would be doing. I 
cannot be grateful enough for all that the beloved place 
and the beloved people have been to me." 

As for the question of marriage, so philosophically 
discussed with Miss Browne — she was a lady of very 
vivid and decided views, and I surmise that her part 
in the debate has lost some of its trenchancy — it was 
exceedingly like him to describe as ** wisely withheld " 
things that he actively and resolutely kept at a distance. 
The people he did not want to see, the places he would 
not visit, were very apt to be removed out of his way 
by an inscrutable providence — to whose decree he 
submitted with perfect composure. There were 
those among his friends who for their part were not so 
meek; they refused to be so patiently relinquished. 
But he was not to be laughed out of his firm trust in a 
ruling that ruled out unwanted things; and one of 
them was marriage — or not indeed the state of 
marriage, but the necessary measures and steps thereto 
conducting. None of these, not even the first and 
commonest and most important, did he ever take; and 
sometimes he wished, he very regretfully wished, 
that he was already married, but he never had the least 
disposition to begin to be. Or almost never, did he 

40 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1898 

say? — for I hear him talk of it with cheerful freedom. 
It was a distinction with very little difference, in any 
case. 

" At Du>iskey dgai>i^ December^ 1898. — A conversation 
with him (St. Clair Donaldson*) about fogeydom. He 
said that he was losing keenness, becoming middle-aged; 
he didn't want to do things, but to be left alone with a 
book. I said that I was still inspired by intense prefer- 
ences — still believed I was an unappreciated genius and 
should set the Thames on fire — continued successive 
assaults on the public, a perpetual battery at the door of 
fame — a renewed and feverish bastinado of the reading 
public. He said that it exonerated me from fogeydom. 
But we agreed that the only thing was to grow old 
gracefully." 

''Eton, February, 1899. — I gave them (a party of 
colleagues) of my best wines and dishes. We smoked. 
At 9.30 Bonham Carter called to see me, and sate in the 
smoky, flaring, napkined dining-room — which was more 
like a little dining-room in Park Lane than the Attic 
feast of seven grave and poverty-stricken professors. I 
was vexed that he should come then. 

" I read a few pages of Cory, which always brings up 
by cords of pathos and delight the deep well-water of the 
poetry of this life. I can't express what that book does 
for me. 

" Met Her Majesty, who has shirked the crossing to 
Cimiez to-day, on Windsor Bridge — an outrider on a 
grey horse in black livery in front, with long whip, another 
behind. H.M. looked very old, heavy, melancholy, 
and almost purple in complexion. But she is a gallant 
old thing." 

" Tork Cathedra/, Easter, 1899. — The moment we 
entered the old spell fell on me: the fragrant scent of 
antiquity, the muffled sounds, the mild warmth, the 

• Afterwards Archbishop of Brisbane, and now (since 192 1) Bishop of 
Salisbury. 

41 



1899] THE DIARY OF 

soaring roof, all affect me as few other things do. . . . 
I am sure, if there is any metempsychosis, that I was once 
a monk — or say a secular canon." 

May 24, 1899, was Queen Victoria's eightieth 
birthday. Eton had again its part in celebrating the 
occasion; a jubilee hymn was sung, for which Arthur 
Benson had written a new birthday verse; and this 
time things went further. 

" May 24. — To-day we met at 8.45 (no early school) 
in the playing-fields, but dismissed owing to downpour. 
At 9.15 we met in school-yard — a hot steaming day, 
like an orchid-house; marched up to the Castle, and after 
a wait got into the yard. The Queen was breakfasting 
in a room over the porch. The choirs sang very sweetly. 
We joined in the fourth verse only of the jubilee hymn, 
and my verse was beautifully sung afterwards. Then 
two madrigals, one very poor. A good many boys 
fainted, thirteen in all, and sat in a row, green-faced and 
bewildered, on a little bench under the wall.* Sir A. 
Bigge came to fetch me to the Queen, hardly to my 
surprise; I was presented to the Duke of Connaught. 
Then we went upstairs and appeared in the corridor; 
the Queen sate rather in shadow, her white widow's cap 
showing very clear; she wore large round black specta- 
cles. Soundy, the Mayor, preceded us; then Sir W. 
Parratt, to whom she made a little civil speech. Then I 
appeared, bowing, and drew as near as I dared. ' I must 
thank you for having written such a beautiful verse,' she 
said: ' it has been a great pleasure to me.' I bowed 
and withdrew, rather clumsily, as I had forgotten the 
backward walk, and only remembered it after a moment. 
However, I did not quite turn my back on the Queen, I 
think. 

" But what was an entire surprise to me, and will 
remain with me as long as I live, was her voice. It was 
so slow and sweet — some extraordinary simplicity about 
it — much higher than I had imagined, and with nothing 
cracked or imperious, or (as the imitations misled me 

42 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1899 

into thinking) gobbly. It was like the voice of a very 
young, tranquil woman. The phrases sounded a little 
like a learnt lesson, but the tone was beautiful — a peculiar 
genuineness about it; I felt as if I really hcid given her 
pleasure. Her face was much in shadow, and contused; 
I couldn't see it clearly. But it was all very tremendous 
somehow; and though, if I had had the choice, I would 
not have dared to go, I am now thankful to have seen her 
and had speech from her." • 

And let it here be noted that they met again; later 
in the year he dined with her privately at the Castle 
and had longer speech, to no less pleasing effect. In 
the following year, the last of her life, I lose count of 
the poetical commissions, already mentioned, with 
which he was from time to time entrusted. And 
then, early in 1901, " It is like the roof being off the 
house," he writes, *' to think of England queenless." 

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1899, comes the 
first sight of a place which for nearly twenty years 
was to be his home — much more intimately his home 
than any of the various houses that he acquired on his 
own account at different times. His mother, leaving 
Winchester, went to live in a beautiful old house in 
Sussex — Tremans, near Horsted Keynes. " I have 
never seen a more captivating place," writes Arthur; 
and indeed with its mellow ripeness and redness, its 
well-worn dignit)', the rambling inconsequence of its 
panelled rooms, the sweetness of its garden from the 
great yew hedge by the lane to the pigeon-cote by the 
farm, Tremans had a spell that could be resisted by 
none who passed that way. The country around, the 
huge woods and green valleys and hidden streams of 
the Sussex Weald, between the Forest and the Downs, 
holds beauty everywhere, in all the weather of the year 
— and beauty exactly of the friendly, kindly sort that 
Arthur loved; he soon knew it by heart for miles 

* Some of the foregoing extracts have been slightly condensed and 
abridged. From this point they will be quoted as they appear in the diary, 
and all omissions indicated. 

43 



1899] THE DIARY OF 

in all directions. Tremans became very dear to him, 
and not less dear before long to his friends. A spirit 
reigned there of which it is difficult to speak rightly; 
for the right words should describe the light of the 
charity, the ring of the gaiety, the charm of the 
genius of Arthur's mother; and for those who knew 
and loved Tremans when she was there the memory 
is not to be matched by words. But Tremans will 
often be seen again in this book, and never without 
the happiness of the presence of Mrs. Benson. 

The summer that was the beginning of Tremans 
was also, less fortunately, the end of Tan. That 
home of many holidays now passed out of the hands 
of the two friends (they had been tutor and pupil at 
Eton) who have already been named. Of these two 
also, Ainger and Howard Sturgis, there is much more 
to be heard in the future; but a sight of them shall 
not be missed during Arthur's last visit to Tan. 

" Tan-yr-allt, September 14 — . . . . Ainger and Howard 
between them certainly make wonderful hosts. A. has 
the organizing turn which is needed in these parties. 
He is good-humoured, tolerant, not talkative, but pun- 
gent, with a keen relish for humour; smiles more often 
than he laughs, and consequently when he is betrayed 
into a laugh it is a delightful sound. He sneezes once a 
day like a thunderclap. Howard, on the other hand, is 
observing, subtle, sensitive, smoothing over and adorn- 
ing all social occasions with a perpetual flow of witty, 
unexpected, graceful talk that never palls or wearies. 
He will fall in with any mood, interpret any suggestion, 
make the most of any shy point, and give everyone the 
feeling of their own brilliance. All this has increased; 
he used to be capable of and to indulge in very malicious 
little strokes of satire, which were always true enough 
to make them bite. I was always conscious with a kind 
of fearful joy that he was in the house, and used to be 
inclined, when either he or I entered a room, to look at 
him curiously to see whether he was in the melting or 
the freezing mood. Now, somehow, I seem to have 

44 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1899 

drifted into a kind of quiet harbour with regard to him 
— and as a consequence of this element of uncertainty- 
being abstracted, enjoy his society far more, am far more 
contented to be with him than ever, though perhaps less 
consciously." 

Ainger, lean and stalwart, the generous and 
peremptory' friend of so many decades of Etonians, 
was still at this time a housemaster in the school, 
though his retirement was near. Howard Sturgis 
(who lived near by in Windsor) is known to some 
as a writer of two or three novels of penetrating 
perception, and remembered and loved and missed by 
troops of friends for what he was to them — one whose 
friendship was apart, by itself, unlike any other in its 
original and enchanting quality. He died in 1920. 

At Michaelmas of 1899 Arthur Benson moved 
into another house at Eton, the last he was to occupy 
there; he gave it the name it still bears, Godolphin 
House. Here he found more space and more 
convenience, but also at first more discontent. It was 
not to his boys that this was due; indeed it was rather 
a special moment of credit and renown in their annals. 
They had won the school cricket-cup that summer, 
as this chronicle should not omit to record; and to 
their house-tutor, as usual, they were the only mitiga- 
tion — they and the division that he taught — of the 
oppression of his work. Loud and long as he groans 
under this, he never has a word for the boys in his 
charge that is not affection and pride. And here let 
me add that when he praises his fortune in ruling 
such a house, he expressly gives the merit, a large share 
of it, to the " dame " who divided the responsibility 
— to Mrs. Cox, the devoted friend and matron of 
his house throughout its histor)\ Her name is 
' always to be celebrated in this connection, as her 
health was always drunk with acclamation at the 
'* old boys' dinner." And the servants, too, are not 
to be forgotten by us who recall their friendliness, 
their zeal, their good-natured tolerance of the ways 

45 



I900] THE DIARY OF 

and whims of boys. The master of the house was 
loyally served, and he well knew it. 

But before returning to his diary at Eton, I give 
another holiday picture — from his first visit to Rye, 
and to the house which long afterwards he was to 
occupy himself. He spent a night there at the 
beginning of 1900, the guest of Henry James. 

'■^Lamb House^ Rye^ January 17, 1900. — Now let me 
dip my pen in rainbow hues — or rather let me be exact, 
finished, delicate, to describe the charm of this 
place. . . . 

*' Henry James, looking somewhat cold, tired and 
old, met me at the station: most affectionate, patting me 
on the shoulder and really welcoming, with abundance of 
petits soins. 

" The town stands on a steep sort of island, rising 
from the great sea-plain. Inland it is separated from 
hilly country by one valley only; but south and south- 
east the flat plain stretches like a green chessboard for 
miles. You see the winding stream, very pale in the 
sunset, the shipyards, the houses of Rye Harbour, the 
strand dotted with Martello towers, the wooded heights 
of Winchelsea, the great ocean-steamers passing up and 
down channel, and the great green expanse of Romney 
Marsh. 

" The town is incredibly picturesque. It has a moul- 
dering castle, a great gateway, a huge church like a 
cathedral, a few gabled and timbered cottages — but for 
the most part is built of wholesome Georgian brick, with 
fine mouldings, good doorhoods, and with an air of 
Dutch trimness and bourgeois stateliness, like a 
cathedral town, which breathes tranquillity. We 
walked slowly up, and came to Lamb house. It is sober 
red Georgian; facing you as you come up is the bow- 
window of the garden-house with all its white casements 
— used by H.J. to write in in summer. The house has a 
tall door, strangely fortified inside by bolts, admitting into 
a white panelled hall. There are three small panelled 
sitting-rooms, besides the dining-room. The place has 

46 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1900 

been carefully done up, and is very clean, trim, precise, 
but all old and harmonious. . . . 

" Dined simply at 7.30, with many apologies from 
HJ. about the fare. ... He was full of talk, though he 
looked weary, often passing his hand over his eyes; but 
he refined and defined, was intricate, magniloquent, 
rhetorical, humorous, not so much like a talker, but 
like a writer repeating his technical processes aloud — 
like a savant working out a problem. He told me a long 

story about , and spoke with hatred of business 

and the monetary side of art. He evidently thinks that 
art is nearly dead among English writers — no criticism, 
no instinct for what is good. . . . He talked of Mrs. 
Oliphant, Carlyle — whatever I began. ' I had not read 
a h^te that the poor woman had written for years — not for 
years; and when she died, Henley — do you know him, the 
rude, boisterous, windy, headstrong Henley ? — Henley, 
as I say, said to me, "Have you read Kirsteen?'' I 
replied that as a matter of fact, no — h'm — I had not read it. 
Henley said, " That you should have any pretensions 
to interest in literature and should dare to say that 
you have not read Kirsteen! " I took my bludgeoning 
patiently and humbly, my dear Arthur — went back 
and read it, and was at once confirmed, after twenty 
pages, in my belief — I laboured through the book — 
that the poor soul had a simply feminine conception of 
literature: such slipshod, imperfect, halting, faltering, 
peeping, down-at-heel work — buffeting along like a 
ragged creature in a high wind, and just struggling to 
the goal, and falling in a quivering mass of faintness and 
fatuity. Yes, no doubt she was a gallant woman — 
though with no species of wisdom — but an artist, an 
artist — ! ' He held his hands up and stared woefully 
at me. . . . 

" H.J. works hard; he establishes me in a little high- 
walled white parlour, very comfortable, but is full of fear 
that I am unhappy. He comes in, pokes the fire, presses 
a cigarette on me, puts his hand on my shoulder, looks 
inquiringly at me, and hurries away. His eyes are 
piercing. To see him, when I came down to breakfast 

47 



I900] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 
this morning, in a kind of Holbein square cap of velvet 
and black velvet coat, scattering bread on the trozen 
lawn to the birds, was delightful. . . . 

'' We lunched together with his secretary, a young 
Scot H.J. ate little, rolled his eyes, waited on us 
walked about, talked-finally hurried me off for a strol 
before my train. All his instincts are of a kmd that 
make me feel vulgar— his consideration, hospitality, care 
of arrangement, thoughtfulness. ... He seemed to 
know everyone to speak to— an elderly clergyman in a 
pony-carriage, a young man riding Three nice-looking 
[nrlJmet us, two of fourteen and fifteen, and a httle maid 
of seven or eight, who threw herself upon HJ with 
cooing noises of delight and kissed him repeatedly and 
effusively, the do^s also bounding up to him. He intro- 
duced me with great gravity. ... We got to the station; 
he said an affectionate farewell, pressing me to come 
aeain- I went away refreshed, stimulated, sobered and 
journeyed under a dark and stormy sky to the dreary 
and loathsome town of Hastings." 



II 



1900 — 1903 



** Eton, February 26, 1900. — Monday: hateful day of 
fierce, arid, consuming work, done, not for the improve- 
ment of the boys — indeed, apart from them — but to 
satisfy my critical colleagues. I go from school to 
school, with pupils and piles of exercises crammed in, 
I walked up to Windsor: some gleams of sun. Came 
down: saw Ainger and Cornish setting off for a walk, a 
thing they have done at 3.45 on Monday for thirty-five 
years — if only people would do something different! 
Ainger walks solidly, religiously, gravely. The boys all 
coming out of school, by the cannon — one talking to 
Bowlby with his hat off; they were doing this twenty- 
six years ago when I was a boy; and here I have been 
practically ever since, fast bound. I beat against the 
wires. What an odd poor thing life is — and yet should 
I be happier free? And that is the poorest thint^ of all, 
that the cage, the burrow, the haunt grows s'o dear. 
Watched a robin sing in my garden — hard-worked to 
keep himself fed; I suppose he was born, lived all his life 
and will die in this privet-hedge. Why should not I be 
content to do the same? And then it comes over me in 
a flash that I am nearly forty, and yet don't feel as 
if the serious business of life had begun, or as if I had 
really settled down to a profession — as if that was to 



come 



This year, 1900, was an uneventful but a troubled 
time — troubled by nervous depression, and still more 

D 49 



,9oo] THE DIARY OF 

by these difficult doubts and questions. " I have no 
scholastic ambition whatever," he writes one day, 
" and I have, absurd as it may seem, immense literary 
ambitions. 1 am sure that the double work cannot 
be carried on much longer." To throw himself upon 
literature, once for all, seemed still too rash; and on 
the other hand, if he remained a schoolmaster now 
was the time when he might be looking for larger 
honours and opportunities in his calling iwo 
important headmasterships happened before long to 
fall vacant, and for both he was strongly urged to 
offer himself as a candidate. He stood aside from 
these without much hesitation; it was easy to resolve 
that he would not go out to seek preferment, desiring 
it so little. But another possibility hung now in the 
air, nearer home; and this would in course of time 
brine a question much harder to determine Did he 
wish to be headmaster of Eton ?-for Warre was 
aeing, his resignation was foreseen, and it was treely 
suggested in many quarters that Arthur Benson was 
the man to succeed him. It was a troubling prospect 
However, there was still time to think of that; and 
meanwhile, daily more forcibly, the vexation of his 
work was turning his mind towards freedom. He 
went so far as to buy a house in Windsor—the Gate 
House, by the entrance to the Long Walk— against 
the day of his retirement. He never lived there in 
the event; but he dwelt upon the thought of it much 
more willingly than upon the other contingency ot 
the headmastership. That would require a decision 
which he was glad to postpone while he might. 

Such is alfthe account to be given of an uneasy 
year— except to note that in the course of it Tremans 
grew ever more dear and delightful, and that another 
Lreeable chapter, that of Dunskey, was closed this 
summer, the tenancy of the Donaldsons having come 
to an end. And now an extract, not from the still 
too accessible diary, but from a more secluded 
notebook, will show how he thought ot the 
headmastership in 1901. 

50 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1901 

'''May 4, 1 90 1. — Since the last entry in this book I 
have been keeping a much fuller diary. But people 
occasionally see the other; so I put a note down here of 
an interesting interview. 

" I dined with Warre on Thursday, May 2. He 
told me as I went away that he wanted to see me 
* to-morrow — any time.' I did not know what this 
could be about. I thought that perhaps H.E.L. had 
intimated to him my discontent, and he wished to ask 
me about it. 

" I went in at 12.0, after school. He was sitting, looking 
over papers, and seemed unwilling to break off, but he 
motioned me to a chair, and then with great hesitation 
and a sort ot nervousness, said that he had something 
on his mind to tell me, and had wished to say it for long 
— he wished me to take orders. He then went on to 
say that he could not be headmaster long — three or four 
years — and he hoped that I should succeed him. It 
needed an Eton man and a wise man, who would make 
wise changes and not fear popular clamour or the 
newspapers. He thought that in general ways I agreed 
with him about the tendency of reforms, and he wished to 
hand on the work to me. He should do all in his power 
to secure it — I should have to take my chance, of course, 
with other candidates. Then about orders — others 
would follow my lead; if I decided not^ and it was, of 
course, a matter for my own decision, he would be the 
last person to judge me. . . . But he believed that a great 
career was before me, and that I ought to think of it. 
He bound me to absolute secrecy — to my nearest and 
dearest. And one thing touched me very much. He 
put his hand on my arm as we stood by the fireplace, and 
said, rather confusedly, with his hand over his eyes, ' I 
have unburdened my mind of this; I have long thought 
of it, and thought I ought to speak — I have not liked 
speaking — but I have spoken because I hold you liege ' 
(or did he say liej?) ' and dear.' It is at a moment like 
that that I feel I could do anything for him. 

" But really I hardly agree with him at all. I cannot 
take orders, of course. I am a faithful member of the 

51 



I90I] THE DIARY OF 

fold, up to a certain point. I am a believer; but a High 
Church Bishop would laugh at my position from the 
point of view of orders, and even H. Ryle would knit 
his brows. But this is not even a temptation. Prominent 
position and great work are so bound up in my mind 
with gene and odious publicities and bonds of all kinds 
that I do not desire them; my heart does not leap 
up at the thought of it at all. Of course orders would 
get me a share of such pickings as there are, but I don't 
want loaves and fishes at that price. I should be afflicted 
with permanent moral asthma. The Devil who tempts 
me, if he does tempt me here, has done it in a very half- 
hearted way. Probably he thinks that he has his rod 
in my nostril, anyhow. God guide me in this strange 
world! " 

There the matter lay, then, for the present, to be 
re-examined occasionally, but always to much the 
same result. Of taking orders there had never been 
any thought since youthful days; but it was not 
impossible that Warre's successor should be a 
layman, and this side of the question remained 
open accordingly, with nothing as yet to make the 
answer any clearer. 

^^ June 17, 1 90 1. — On Thursday last I went up to 
town to hear my Ode to Music* performed at the opening 
of the new hall of the Royal College of Music. ... To 
the Athenaeum, where I entered with much shyness, and 
introduced myself as a new member, but was ordered 
about rather by the domestics. Under the wing of the 
Vice-Provost I lunched. At a little table by the door, 
laden with silver covers, sate Chamberlain, reading a 
Westminster Gazette held high up and close to his eyes. 
Occasionally he snapped food like a turtle. I found 
that the paper contained some offensive statements about 
himself. He is older-looking, paler, more lymphatic 
than formerly, but incredibly perky and hard, ploughing 
the air with his sharp nose and glassy eye; but he gave me 

♦ Set by Sir Hubert Parry. 
52 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1901 

the impression ot amiability. Asquith, looking like a 
bishop, was ranging the room; and many other well- 
known faces. But the club is neither so large nor so 
sumptuous as I had expected; the dining-room is rather 
dirty and odorous. The staircase mean: there should 
be full-length pictures of men in wigs and frock- 
coated, whiskered politicians — ' retired panthers,' as 
Tennyson said, smiling over puffed expanses of shirt- 
front. Instead, there are two rather improper nymphs 
in oily plaster, crouching one at each end of a 
sofa. . . . 

** Then we drove to the Royal College of Music. A 
great gathering : and I saw many people I knew — Lloyd, 
Schuster, Alan Gray, and innumerable others near me. 
Parratt came and talked and expressed his entire approval. 
Stanford took up his place as conductor, and the 
National Anthem struck up as the Duke of Cambridge 
came in, with his face like a damaged double strawberry, 
looking very infirm. He was taken to a red arm- 
chair in the front, where he dozed; in the soft passage 
of a violin movement, a few minutes later, all the 
books and papers they had given him fell out of his 
old, drowsy hand on to the ground, and he did not even 
pick them up. 

" What I liked about the performance was the way in 
which they (the students) sang and played, minding their 
business, with intense zest and inner pleasure, and with 
no ad captandum self-conscious glances. A boy, rather 
like Blake ma., in a short coat, played some Saint-Saens 
variations; very nervous when he came on, but getting 
better and playing triumphantly — a very beautiful, sad 
and solemn thing, like a soul resigned to death and 
welcoming it — and sittmg afterwards beaming with 
inward delight and with the form of his countenance 
changed by having got it all over. 

" A woman with a green-trimmed hat sang, or rather 
howled, a musical-box thing of Rossini's — rather well 
done, but not very attractive, though I did not hate it as 
Fred did. I always think that the passage about Rossini 
in Browning is a very unfair and unworthy one, and 



i9oi] THE DIARY OF 

shows how hopelessly musical taste changes, and how 
unpardonable it is for one musician to give himself airs 
because he happens to be the vogue, airs of pontifical 
disapprobation. There is no absolute canon of beauty 
in music or in anything else; fifty years hence people will 
probably talk of Wagner as claptrap, and wonder how 
anyone could admire. The only dignity in art is the 
dignity of doing your best, whatever it is, without 
reference to praise. 

*' Still, the howling woman with her smiles, her rou- 
lades, her tremolos, her siren screams and sharp light- 
nings of sound was unpleasing. . . . But the look of the 
enthusiastic, quiet, devoted boys and girls was very 
pleasant. The Ode was magnificent. ... It was very 
well received; while the students shouted 'author' I 
fled. . . . 

" I walked away with Fred. These little crowded 
bursts interest and please me. Perhaps I should soon 
sicken of them, but as things are they make me dis- 
contented; I shudder at the idea of going back to look 
over piles of verses, patter into school, solve domestic 
squabbles. If I was not greatly interested in my boys 
I could not stand it." 

Kings College^ Cambridge^ August 4. — My division 
did very well in trials; I took a very affectionate farewell 
of them and of halcyon days. I have never been so much 
at my ease, never felt myself so entirely in sympathy with 
a set of people: the whole thirty-six notes vibrated true 
to my touch. They sang like the grasshopper who 
leapt on the harp and took the place of the broken 
string. There was no question of governing: they 
answered to my smallest hint. This was not so much my 
own personal influence as a general harmony — every 
one in the right place. I am not conscious of having 
had to use influence or tact or persuasion, still less anger 
or displeasure. I told them that they were both good- 
humoured and sensible, and that I should long regret 
them. They poured photos on me — and real goodwill, 
I am sure. . . . 

54 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1901 

" At last I rushed off, drove across town — a great 
crowd at St. Pancras — got the ^.^. and was at Cambridge 
by 6.30. 

" I experienced the most poignant and yet luxurious 
sensations. I have not been here for thirteen years, 
since I took my degree — partly huffiness at the policy of 
the college, partly affairs. As we drew near Cambridge 
all the familiar things began to come back: the inn at 
Whittlesford, where we used to have tea in the old 
bicycling days, the Gogs, the familiar fields, the conduit, 
etc. All the country was beautiful, the vegetation 
luxuriant. At Cambridge station a huge grain elevator 
and mill in buff brick — hideous, but impressive. Drove 
down to King's. . . . Everyone, porters, dons, bedmakers, 
were extraordinarily welcoming — chid me for my 
absence, overwhelmed me with kindness. I felt like 
coming home. . . . 

" On Saturday did little businesses; breakfasted in 
Combination Room pleasantly, with fine Victorian plate. 
In the afternoon walked about Zion. Saw Queen's, a 
fine new chapel — Peterhouse, a beautiful place, but a 
stronghold of the Philistines. I like the (Peterhouse) 
chapel transparencies now; if only people would have 
faith, and keep work as long as it is careful, expensive, 
thought out and put up with love. Then in Pembroke 
garden, a beautiful, embowered, bird-haunted place. 
. . . To Emmanuel, and saw an elegant African black 
undergraduate, slim and nimble, playing lawn-tennis 
with Englishmen. All these gardens are trim and rich 
with flowers, much smarter than they used to be. I 
suppose that the married fellows system tends to har- 
monise; they seem to give up the gardens much more 
to undergraduates, while the little tutors hurry off to 
small, new, red-brick houses on the Trumpington road. 
The men, too, seem gentler and more decorous than of 
old; but I suppose only the mildest are up just 
now. . . . 

" We went to an out-of-door concert in the new court 
(King's); when I remember it, it was a long, high wall 
with a kitchen-garden behind it, and a deserted little slip 

55 



i90i] THE DIARY OF 

of ground like a terrace where snapdragons grew. The 
bridge and river more ravishingly beautiful than ever. 
I remember so well standing there in a moonlit midnight, 
and hearing an owl snore in a hollow tree by the bridge. 
To-night a huge high fantasmal building, lit up — 
and a pleasing concert, sung by solid and sober- 
looking young men. . . . We lounged in silence, 
and smoked, the behaviour perfect. Lionel Ford sang 
my song, ' Twenty years ago.' I sate in a kind of happy 
dream, not regretting the old pleasant, sociable 
days. ..." 

*' Grosvenor Cluh^ London^ September^. — This morning 
I have devoted to papers and this diary. I am well in 
health, and undisturbed (for me) by ailments, though I 
cannot help dreading the future, and bothering myself 
about the little malady that grows and grows — castigatio 
mea matutina est. 

" But, taking stock generally, I am somewhat cast 
down. I have had considerable success in a profession 
in which I am not really interested, and I have refused 
two big chances. But my motive in accepting such a 
post would not be a pure one. I should accept it because 
it gave me a position, and a standpoint, and a finger in 
the great pie, and dignity with other people, and general 
advertisement. People would listen to me and be more 
deferential if I were a headmaster, and all that is very 
pleasant. Then, too, I should know, if I wished, bigger 
people, and I should have things more or less my own 
way in my own yard. But I should not accept it from 
devotion, or as an earnest reformer, or as a man caring 
for extended influence, which he knows he possesses, 
or from conviction. 

" Then, in literature, I am very ambitious indeed, 
though I grow lazier. In fact, I have little doubt 
that if I am to break with schoolmastering I must do so 
at once — that I shall never settle down to literary work 
otherwise, and that I shall inevitably lose the spring, the 
zest, the joy of literature. I am losing it; I write less, 
with much more difficulty, and have far less impulse to 

56 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1901 

write. But I am not rich enough for my modest desires. 
And I should be sorry to take up literature and find I 
couldn't do it — find myself poor and ineffective, with 
no particular place in the world. Schoolmastering at 
least gives me this, much as my whole nature now re- 
coils against going back, like a squirrel into his rotatory 
drum, to plunge into whirling work, of which so much 
is absolutely useless. If we turned out our boys know- 
ing anything, caring for anything, I should not complain. 
But eighty' per cent, leave us ignorant of everything, even 
Greek and Latin, hating books, despising knowledge, 
admiring athletics, mistaking amiability for character — 
and that is what we sweat our brains out to produce. It 
is simply deplorable. 

" Here is my dilemma: on the one hand a useful life, 
which bores me — on the other hand a life which is not 
useful, and which would probably bore me still more, 
but which I love. And still I hesitate; and what makes 
me despise myself still more is that even my hesitation 
is not noble-minded — not fearing to sacrifice usefulness, 
but mere timidity and habituation: the monkey in the 
kettle. 

*' Sed tu mecum es; baculus tuus conjortahit me, . . . 

*' I say I write less — and yet I have written 20,000 
words of this diary, 100 small octavo printed pages, in 
a month." . 

** Eion, November 3. — I record some of the most vivid 
dreams I have ever had. I was sitting in a kind of 
saloon-carriage, by the side of a lake. The rail on which 
my carriage stood went round the lake; the other dipped 
into it. I saw the metals going down into the clear 
water, and the waves lapping on the pebbles. I heard 
a noise; and at the top of a little heathery hill behind — 
the place was a moor — appeared a huge engine, like a 
traction engine, coming down at a simply furious pace, 
like a dragon, upon me. I saw the blue gleaming 
metal of which it was made; it flung out cataracts of 
black smoke, but I was not afraid. It dashed into the 
water by me, running on the submerged metals, drawing 

57 



I90I] THE DIARY OF 

a train of red trucks, empty, and simply tore across the 
lake, throwing off the water in huge jets over it, the 
smoke struggling through the foam, and disappeared 
with its train of trucks over a low hill. Then I was in a 
marble-paved hall, belonging, I knew, to some university, 
with rather a cross portress at a table in the centre. I 
could see the dim reflection of ourselves in the floor as we 
moved about. Then I was in a garden, playing with 
some children, an odd game played with golf balls and 
wooden spades : John Sarum in a brown Norfolk jacket. 
The garden was neglected and rather provincial, but 
jasmine grew profusely. In running to pitch a ball I 
saw an odd stone in a garden bed, a piece of crystal, 
which I took up, and, rubbing off the dirt, found it a 
statuette of a girl riding on a mule, loaded with grapes. 
I looked up and saw that E.W.B. had joined the game, 
in his cassock. I took it to him, and he smiled and 
touched it, and said, * You shall yet return and bring 
your grapes with you.' Then he kissed me, and I felt 
the slight roughness of his cheek as I used to do as a 
child; then he blessed me very solemnly. The dream 
faded." 

" jE/o^, February 13, 1902. — My work closes in, and 
I have had three perfectly disgusting and unbearable 
days, shuffling on in hideous impatience and irritability 
from one occupation to another, with letters and business 
accumulations. ... It is useless to complain; but I will 
put down what my day was yesterday — Ash Wednesday 
— for the information of posterity. 

"I rose about 7: school 7.30. I heard a Virgil 
saying-lesson, and the boys did Greek Exercise, while I 
made an abstract of some Old Testament history. At 
8.30 I went out of school: breakfasted. I ought to have 
gone to the Commination Service, but I had such a pile 
of letters that I went to my study at 9.15, and wrote, 
without stopping, quite savagely, till 10.50, and then 
had not finished. School at 11, history; I questioned 
on a chapter, and gave a short abstract of all we had done, 
trying to knock in the divisions of it. At 12 I came 

J8 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1902 

out, went to pupil-room, heard the Remove construe 
two lessons, looked over Fourth Form exercises and my 
Greek Ex. of the morning. Dinner at 2 with the boys, 
and wrote letters 2.30 to 3.30. Tatham came and I 
walked with him to Upton; back at 4.30. Tried to read 
up a translation paper for the evening, but was very weary 
and went gaping into school at 5 — a Thucydides lesson, 
very dull, and went through the Greek Ex. Came out 
and worked at the translation paper and some Latin 
prose from 6 to 7. Then took a set of boys in Latin 
prose till 7.40, then a set in translation paper till 8.10. 
Dressed: went out to Goodhart for some dinner, 8.30. 
Came away at 9.40, and went round the house till 10.30. 
Then read a little, but weary and dissatisfied. So that 
out of sixteen hours I have practically had three in which 
I was not in some way professionally employed. I see 
that W. Johnson says in his diary that he averaged about 
nine hours a day. I don't think it is quite so much as 
that now. But I don't think it ought ever to be more 
than eight, and Sundays ought to be easier. I do not 
think 1 can ever face an Easter half again." 

*'' March I. — AVarre came and took my division yes- 
terday. We were doing Lysias. He was rosy and 
cheerful, and stood by me on the platform. I had been 
girding at the attenuated stuff, and he began praising it 
for its beaut)' and interest. He taught a little himself, 
making the boys construe at sight, and was pleased at 
their intelligence. Then he made them a little speech 
about good taste in writing, purity of st)'le, avoidance of 
humour — saying that youthful humour was often 
offensive, and that it might well be written down, if only 
— ' there, put your pen through it.' He spoke of his own 
sermons, and how after writing a few pages a horror 
came over him (I don't wonder) and he struck it all out. 
I have not often heard him preach a sermon that would 
not have been improved by this process. His greatness 
gleamed out through the loose and inconsequent 
talk — rambling metaphors, rapid quotations, quite 
unintelligible to the boys — like tongues of fire through 

59 



I902] THE DIARY OF 

smoke. He roared so loud once or twice that the room 
rang, and my head began to buzz. Then he expressed 
himself as pleased and marched away. We felt flatter 
after he had gone. His warm praise of the necessity of 
learning to write English interested me: has he any 
terrific scheme in his head.'* " 

** April 24 (my fortieth birthday) . . . — Now let me 
write a little sober survey of my life, as it turns upon the 
hinge. It is just half-past six, about which hour I was 
born. 

" I am fairly happy — full of little plans and ambitions 
and interests. But I fear that most of these are very 
selfish. I don't think I want to serve; neither do I want 
to rule. . . . My face is set away from Eton, and towards 
the Meadows of Ease, that delicate place. Should I be 
happier.'' A.C.A. says bluntly that I should not, but I 
think that only money keeps me back. I have nearly 
£"joo a year of my own*, and a pension would make it 
;^8oo; so that it could not be imprudent to leave. 
Certainly my heart is more and more in writing, and 
less and less in teaching or administration. A very 
small thing would dislodge me hence. I put aside all 
ambition for the headmastership as merely futile. . . . 

" And so I enter on a new phase, and I try to survey 
the plains of middle age with fortitude and faith. I hope 
I may slay some Canaanites. But what good is it to 
look forward.'* I am in the hands of God." 

" Octohet' 13. — I dare say it is pusillanimous, but I 
can't help it. I can't slave on. ... I shall be sorry to 
leave the beloved boys ; but the sense of real peace that 
this decision has given me is so true and profound that 
I hardly doubt I am right thus to decide. I am really 
wearing out, and the burden cannot be supported. 

" The scouts of the E.C.R.V. were all out along the 
river as we walked. We stopped and talked to the merry 
Davies. The lock-house has been renewed, and they 
are building new red brick cottages, not bad, by 

* Most of this was derived from his savings at Eton. 
60 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1902 

Boveney; the elm lane there is charming, and the dove- 
cote. It is a beloved place; but there are no glorified 
memories connected with my mastership here — no land- 
scapes lit with love-light, or even great and absorbing 
friendships: plenty of interest and plenty of life, but 
sordid thoughts on the whole, knit up with self: some 
temperate and kindly hienveiUances. 

" W. Johnson says that the passions, the imprudences, 
are the things that one is glad and proud of afterwards. 
I wonder if this is true? I have no means of knowing. 

" My growing decision has drawn a veil between 
Eton and me. I shall try to be kindly and generous 
and sweet-tempered while I stay, and leave nothing but 
friends — not rage or rhetoricise or grumble or grunt. I 
never was patient — never could do tiresome work 
because it was right, as one eats mutton. But I tried 
always, each time, to think it interesting, to think it 
was oysters and champagne; and I often succeeded — 
it was imported novelty that carried me through. 

** I talked and taught well to-day, and worked very 
easily, though with loathing. But I had an interior 
peace." 

And so he resolved to send in his resignation — 
not immediately, but as soon as a good occasion 
might present itself. Meanwhile, whatever he may 
say of his failure to WTite as easily as he used, his 
literary work was in fact extending, widening its 
scope, finding fresh opportunities at a great rate. 
The Lije of Archbishop Benson had been published in 
1899, and also in the same year a collection of the 
lives of Eton worthies. Fasti Etonenses. Since then 
he had produced another volume of poems, and a book 
in which his experience in his profession was very 
attractively reviewed and presented. The Schoolmaster. 
And he was already adventuring in new regions. The 
stories of The Hill of Trouble^ and a kindred volume 
or two that soon followed, were written about this 
time ; and now too he began (with The House of Quiet) 
that long line of confidentially reflective and anecdotal 

61 



I902] THE DIARY OF 

books that were presently to enjoy so great and facile 
a success. Moreover there soon came, perhaps more 
fortunately, a commission to write the volume on 
D. G. Rossetti for the series of English Men of 
Letters, a very congenial piece of work. It was clear, 
then, that he could change his profession whenever 
he chose, with no fear of finding himself at a loss. 

And it had now struck him that he might settle at 
Cambridge. It has been seen how he paid a visit to 
his old college, after long years of absence; and he 
enjoyed it so well that he at once decided — as he 
usually did decide, wherever he went — to acquire a 
house in the neighbourhood and live there for the rest 
of his days. Before long he had found and taken his 
house, the Old Granary, beyond Silver Street bridge; 
and the house in Windsor was forgotten as he promptly 
rearranged his prospect and planned a life of retire- 
ment at Cambridge. Perhaps it would have surprised 
him at the time to be told that he really was to live 
there, as he told himself, for the rest of his days: not 
indeed for long at the Old Granary, and by no means 
in retirement, but at Cambridge to the end. 

However, there was still another year, 1903, at 
Eton, the year which was at length to bring hesitation 
to an end by an entirely unexpected stroke. It began 
in all the old vexation of spirit under the burden of 
the " system," and many a page of his diary might be 
added to those already given in which his exasperation 
breaks out and overflows. The refrain of them all is 
the same — the wasteful and wearisome routine, so ill 
contrived that it exhausts the patience of everybody 
and benefits none; and whether his lament was 
justified, whether his account of the results which the 
system yielded or failed to yield was a fair one, it is 
not for me to say; but it is obvious that a man who 
thought as he did on the matter could only feel 
an " interior peace " as he looked forward to his 
departure. 

And now, for a complete change from the irrita- 
tions of the working-day, let him describe a visit 

62 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1903 

that he paid this spring at Putney, a visit arising 
out of a correspondence on Rossetti with Rossetti's 
friend. 

" April 4, 1903. — I left my house on a bicycle about 
twelve, and rushed up town after an unsatisfactory 
morning of odds and ends. I had been received by 
Mr. Watts-Dunton with a great amount of epistolatory 
ceremony, many courteous letters arranging my visit, 
written by a secretary. The day was dark and gloomy. 
I got to Putney about 1.15, and walked into the street. 
I asked my way to the house, expecting it to stand high 
up. I was in a very common suburban street, with 
omnibuses and cabs — and two rows of semi-detached 
houses going up the gentle acclivity of the hill. I 
suddenly saw I was standing opposite the house, a per- 
fectly commonplace, bow-windowed, yellow-brick house, 
with a few shrubs in the tiny garden. I went up to the 
door, and was at once taken in by the maid. The house 
was redolent of cooking, dark, not very clean-looking, 
but comfortable enough, the walls crowded everywhere 
with pictures, mostly Rossetti's designs in pen-and-ink 
or chalk. I was taken into a dining-room on the right, 
looking out at the back. To the left the tall backs of 
yellow-brick houses : the gardens full of orchard trees in 
bloom: a little garden lay beneath with a small yew hedge 
and a statue of a nymph, rather smoke-stained: some tall 
elms in the background. 

" Mr. Watts-Dunton came out and greeted me with 
great cordiality. He seemed surprised at my size, as 
I was similarly surprised at his — I had not remembered 
he was so small. He was oddly dressed in waistcoat and 
trousers of some greenish cloth, and with a large heavy 
blue frock-coat, too big for him, with long cuffs. He 
was rather bald, with his hair grown thick and long, and 
a huge moustache which concealed a small chin. He 
had lost his teeth since I last saw him, and looked an old 
man, though healthily bronzed and with firm small hands. 
After a compliment or two he took me upstairs. A pair 
of elastic-sided boots lay outside a door — the passage 

63 



1903] THE DIARY OF 

thickly carpeted and pictures everywhere. We went 
quickly in, the room being over the dining-room. 

" There stood before me a little, pale, rather don-like 
man, quite bald, with a huge head and dome-like fore- 
head, a ragged red beard in odd whisks, a small aquiline 
red nose. He looked supremely shy, but received me 
with a distinguished courtesy, drumming on the ground 
with his foot, and uttering strange little whistling noises. 
He seemed very deaf. The room was crammed with 
books: bookcases all about — a great sofa entirely filled 
with stacked books— books on the table. He bowed me 
to a chair — ' Will you sit.f* ' On the fender was a pair 
of brown socks. Watts-Dunton said to me, ' He has 
just come in from one of his long walks ' — and took up 
the socks and put them behind the coal-scuttle. * Stay! ' 
said Swinburne, and took them out carefully, holding 
them in his hand: ' They are drying.' Watts-Dunton 
murmured something about his fearing they would get 
scorched, and we sate down. Swinburne sate down, 
concealing his feet behind a chair, and proceeded with 
strange motions to put the socks on out of sight. * He 
seems to be changing them,' said Watts-Dunton. 
Swinburne said nothing, but continued to whistle and 
drum. Then he rose and bowed me down to lunch, 
throwing the window open. 

" We went down and solemnly seated ourselves, 
Watts-Dunton at the head, back to the light, Swinburne 
opposite to me. We had soup, chickens, many sweets, 
plovers' eggs. Swinburne had a bottle of beer, which he 
drank. He was rather tremulous with his hands, and 
clumsy. At first he said nothing, but gazed at intervals 
out of the window with a mild blue eye and a happy sort 
of look. Watts-Dunton and I talked gravely, he 
mumbling his food with difficulty. When he thought 
that Swinburne was sufficiently refreshed he drew him 
gracefully into the conversation. I could not make 
Swinburne hear, but Watts-Dunton did so without 
difficulty. . . . He seemed content to be silent, and I was 
struck with his great courtesy, especially to Watts- 
Dunton — this was very touching. Watts-Dunton made 

64 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1903 

some criticism on Scott (Swinburne having said that The 
Bride oj Lammcrmoor was a -perfect story) — about the 
necessit}' when Scott became bookish of translating him 
into patois. ' Very beautiful and just,' said Swinburne, 
looking affectionately and gratefully at Watts-Dunton; 
* I have never heard that before, and it is just; you must 
put that down.' Watts-Dunton smiled and bowed. 
Later on Watts-Dunton attributed some opinion to 
Rossetti: 'Gabriel thought — ' etc. Swinburne smiled, 
and said, ' I have often heard you say that, but ' (he 
turned smiling to me) ' Mr. Benson, there is no truth in 
it. Rossetti had no opinions when I first knew him on 
Chatterton and many other subjects, and our friend 
here had merely to say a thing to him, and it was 
absolutely adopted and fixed in the firmament.* 
Watts-Dunton stroked Swinburne's small pink hand, 
which lay on the table, and Swinburne gave a pleased 
schoolboy smile. 

" Lunch being over, Swinburne looked revived, and 
talked away merrily; he bowed me out of the room with 
ceremony. Watts-Dunton seemed to wish me to stay, 
and Swinburne looked concerned, drew nearer to him, 
and said, ' Mr. Benson must come and sit a little in my 
room '; so we went up. Swinburne began pulling down 
book after book, and showed them to me, talking 
delightfully. As he became more assured he talked 
rhetorically; he has a full, firm, beautiful pronunciation, 
and talks like one of his books ; occasionally his voice went 
into a little squeak. He suddenly rose, and went and 
drank some medicine in a corner. He had on an odd black 
tail-coat, a greenish waistcoat, slippers, low white collar, 
made-up tie — very shabby indeed. There was an odd, 
bitter, bookish scent about the room, which hung, I 
noticed, about him too. He talked a little about Eton 
and Warre, saying, ' He sate next me many a half, and 
he was a good friend of mine.' 

" Then Watts-Dunton proposed that I should go; but 
Swinburne said, half timidly, * I hope there is time just 
to show Mr. Benson one of these scenes.' * Well, one 
scene,* said Watts-Dunton, ' but we have a lot of business 

65 



1903] THE DIARY OF 

to talk — ^you read it to him.* He took the book I was 
holding — the Arden play — and read very finely and 
dramatically, with splendid inflections, a fine scene. 
His little feet kicked spasmodically under his chair, and 
he drummed on the table. He was pleased at my 
pleasure — and then took up some miracle plays, and told 
me a long story of the Annunciation of the Nativity — 
the sheep-stealer, called Mack, who steals a sheep and 
puts it into the child's cradle; the shepherd comes to 
find it and laughs: then the angel appears. 'Do you 
think Mr. Benson will be shocked if I show him what 
Cain says } ' he said, and showed me, giggling, a piece of 
ancient schoolboy coarseness. Watts-Dunton smiled 
indulgently; then at last he took me away. Swinburne 
shook hands with great cordiality, a winning, shy kind of 
a smile lighting up his pale eyes. Watts-Dunton led me 
off, saying, ' I like him to get a good siesta; he is such an 
excitable fellow; he is like a schoolboy — unfailing animal 
spirits, always pleased with everything; but he has to 
take care.' He was much amused at Swinburne asking 
me if I was his contemporary at Eton. 

** I was somehow tremendously touched by these two 
old fellows living together (Swinburne must be 66, 
Watts-Dunton about 72) and paying each other these 
romantic compliments and displaying distinguished con- 
sideration, as though the world was young. I imagine 
that the secret of Watts-Dunton's influence is that he is 
ready to take all the trouble off^ the shoulders of 
these eminent men— that he is very sedulous, com- 
plimentary, gentle — and that he is at the same time just 
enough of an egotist to require and draw out some 
sympathy. . . . 

*' Watts-Dunton kept all through our long talk (we 
sate from 2.30 to 5) reverting to himself: how he was the 
only man not dominated by Rossetti: how dogs wouldn't 
bite him: how as a boy at school he dominated all the 
school, so that no boy ever got a hamper without bringing 
it to him to choose what he liked best (he called it a very 
big fashionable private school): how the boys would have 
carried him about all day on their shoulders if he had 

66 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1903 

desired it : and how no edict of the masters would have 
availed, if he had given contrary orders. 

" He sighed heavily at one time and said that he 
himself had not done what he ought to have done in 
literature. At this I poured in a good deal of rather 
rancid oil and ginger-wine. He smiled indulgently and 
deprecatingly. He then said that the charge of Rossetti 
had been very anxious — the stratagems to reduce chloral, 
the dancing attendance on his whims; but he added, ' In 
his friendship and the friendship of Swinburne I find 
my consolation.* This I did not think sincerely said. 

" * Swinburne,' he said several times over, * is a mere 
boy still, and must be treated like one — a simple school- 
boy, full of hasty impulses and generous thoughts — 
like April showers.* He added, ' His mental power 
grows stronger every year — everybody's does. He is 
now a pure and simple improvisatore.* 

" Watts-Dunton sipped a little whiskey-and-water and 
smoked a cigarette. He sometimes reclined in an arm- 
chair, sometimes came and sate near me. I sate in a 
great carved chair of Rossetti's (very fine — Indian), 
facing the light. There were fine pictures everywhere; 
a most interesting one of Rossetti reading poetry to 
Watts-Dunton in the Green Room at 16 Cheyne Walk, 
by Dunn (he gave me a reproduction of this); a Shakes- 
peare in a heavy frame; beautiful witches of Rossetti's, 
in crayons, pale red, peeping out of great gold frames. 
Outside were the white orchard blooms and trees, and I 
arranged myself so that I could see no house-backs — 
and we might have been at Kelmscott. . , . 

" I had intended to go earlier, but we talked on; 
occasionally he went to his secretaries. Before I went 
we had some tea; and then he brought in two little 
framed pictures (Rossetti in the Green Room, and 
Kelmscott), prepared for his illustrated Aylv:in^ and the 
illustrated edition of AyliL-in itself, and gave them to me, 
with many expressions of kindness and cordial offers of 
help. ' Come and see me,' he said; ' don't write. My 
correspondence is a simple curse. I have thirty letters 
a post.' (I wonder what about?) He wrote my name 

67 



1903] THE DIARY OF 

in the book. He talked a good deal about Lord de 
Tabley, or rather a good deal of the influence he had 
over de Tabley! 

" I can't understand this enigma — how this egotistical, 
ill-bred little man can have established such relations 
with Rossetti and Swinburne. There must be some- 
thing fine about him — and his extraordinary kindness is 
perhaps the reason; but his talk, his personal habits, 
and his egotism would grate on me at every hour of the 
day. And yet, ' He is a hero of friendship,' said 
Rossetti. 

" I went out with my precious parcel — back by train 
in driving rain to Windsor." 

The midsummer half wore away at Eton, and still 
he had not found the right moment or the conclusive 
reason for fixing the date of his resignation. And 
now at last it was decided for him. 

'' Etoriy July 24, 1903. — A mysterious wire from 
Esher to ask me to come over to Orchard Lea — the 
King wished him to speak to me on a matter of import- 
ance! It must be that Lord Churchill wants me to 
take his boy next year. ..." 

" July 25. — Worked hard with much impatience, 
and biked over to Orchard Lea. Could not find a 
front-door; but eventually left my bike by an iron gate, 
and, advancing, rang at a small door. I was shown in 
through a nice dark hall, and found Lady Esher, very 
good-natured and friendly; Esher in the garden in a sum- 
mer-house, airily dressed, reading, with his son beside 
him, in a Guards' tie, also reading. Lady Esher would 
have settled down for a talk, but E. said, ' I am going to 
take him for a talk.' 

" The pretty garden lay all before us, with its shady 
walks and banks and terraces; in the midst a huge bed 
of red roses, just crumbling to their fall; to the left an 
alley down which I have often peered from the road; 
beyond, quiet fields and woods. In the whole of the 

68 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1903 

long talk that followed my thoughts and recollections 
are curiously knit with the colours and textures of 
flowers in the beds we paced past. 

" He made me a statement at once, with a kind of 
smile, yet holding it back for effect. The King was 
going to bring out the correspondence and letters of 
Queen Victoria (1836 — 1861), and would I edit it with 
him (Esher)? I was to be sounded, and then offered it. 
He had seen the Archbishop, who entirely approved. 

" Of course I had no real doubt. Here am I, crushed 
with work at Eton, hardly strong enough to wriggle out, 
and yet with no motive to go at any particular minute. 
Suddenly in the middle of all my discontent and 
irritability a door is silently and swiftly opened to me. 
In the middle of this quiet sunny garden, full of sweet 
scents and roses, I am suddenly offered the task of 
writing or editing one of the most interesting books of 
the day— of the century. I have waited long for some 
indication — and was there ever a clearer leading? 

" He told me many details. ... I asked for a little 
time, decorously to decide; but all the time my heart 
told me I had decided already, or rather that it had been 
decided. . . . 

" I had a bad night — and no wonder; shirked chapel, 
and then wrote two letters, one to Warre, resigning as 
simply as I could, and one to Esher, accepting." 

''August 13. — . . . The warmth and affection of 
the letters I get about Eton fairly astound me. It is 
difficult not to pose in writing about this, but I will 
say exactly what is in my mind. I felt myself at Eton 
to be rather popular, knowing a few masters well, my 
opinion rather deferred to by these few; but living a 
very quiet, and increasingly quiet life, absorbed in my 
own thoughts and in my own work. But I get a series 
of jeremiads; Eton won't be the same place, disastrous 
news, a subject too painful to talk about; the dear 
Rawlins says that he can't keep up a show of mirth with 
his guests, and that it has been a horrible blow to him, as 
he depended on me for everything. Of course a good 

69 



1903] THE DIARY OF 

deal of this is affection generously expressed. . . . But, 
making all allowances, there is a residue of praise which 
fairly astonishes me, and which won't make me conceited, 
because I don't realise or believe it. Each letter pushes 
me up on a pedestal for a few minutes; but I soon get 
down again, and go scrambling on as usual. . . . 

" I sent off all my circulars in the evening — writing 
.a few words on each, or a letter. It is melancholy work, 
and I hate dropping all these beloved boys and their 
destinies; but I can't do otherwise. I should be crushed 
out of shape by the work at Eton. I would gladly 
continue to keep a house and do some teaching, or 
teach alone; but the whole burden I can bear no more. 
Besides, I have no call to schoolmastering. The wonder 
is that, caring for it so little in many ways, I do it as 
well as I do." 

" September 27. — A dreadful night of dreams — 
voyages on wide blue waters, interspersed with many 
interviews with the Prince Consort. In one of these we 
were by a tea-table— we two alone. He helped himself 
liberally to tea, cake, etc.; then he turned to me, and 
said, ' You observe that I offer you no tea, Mr. Benson.' 
I said, * Yes, sir.' ' The reason is that I am forbidden 
by etiquette to do so, and would to God I could alter this 1 * 
He was overcome with emotion, but finished his tea, 
after which a grave man came and served me with 
some ceremony." 

So his departure was announced for the end of this 
year, 1903. He invited all his " old boys " as usual 
to a house-dinner at Eton in November; and on this 
occasion, the last and largest of our annual assemblies, 
we did our best to let him see that we knew what we 
owed him. A few words from his account of the 
evening (November 14) may forgivably be quoted: 

" I thought what nice good sensible amiable boys they 
all were — of the best sort; unaffected, affectionate, simple, 
and yet with plenty of quiet savoir faire. They are just 

70 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1903 

the sort of boys I should have desired them to be; and 
I suppose one's desire, often invoked, tells, in spite of 
all one's incompetence." 

'* December 8. — In the evening I had my last Pri- 
vate. I examined the boys in history. They did very 
well. As they filed out I sate wondering — the lights 
bright, and a big fire blazing, flickering over the benches 
and the maps, and the inky forms, and the old books that 
I have known so long. How clear to me the picture of 
my tutor is, and the pupil-room, and the gaslight — it is 
strange to me to think that I too am part of the memory- 
pictures of some boys. 

" Well, I have generally liked my Private, when I 
have once begun, though generally very unwilling to go 
down. ... I feel a little tearful at the idea of the work 
and the briskness and the young life all about — and that 
all over; but I don't for one instant repent, and I would 
not alter my decision for one second, even if I could. 
The time has come naturally, and I must add very hap- 
pily and sweetly to an end; the boys have been at their 
very best this half — sweet-tempered, considerate, good. 
And I have not slackened steam the least, but have 
bucketed on to the ver)' end. ..." 

'* December 16. — All the morning I worked; boys 
dropped in to say good-bye. But the joy of the holidays 
was too much for them, and I would not have it 
otherwise. . . . 

*' Then Alec Cadogan dropped in and came to lunch; 
and by 2 all the boys were gone. Then I walked with 
the Provost at his request; he was very pleasant and 
fatherly. . . . 

" I came back; and it struck very chill on my heart, 
I confess, to see my hall and stairs all dismantled — the 
cases in the dining-room — the old life all breaking up 
and going. Well, it has been a happy time — happier 
and happier, in many ways. And most of all I thank 
God for giving a very timid, feeble and weak-minded 
person the chance of doing a little useful work. . . . 

71 



1903] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

" I found a despatch-box and a note from Rawlins 
that rather broke my heart. . . . Then Edward Ryle came, 
in tears, to say good-bye. That is a kind heart. Now 
I write these last few lines, with all the trampling and 
din of the packers downstairs. But I am going to dine 
with Tatham, and -shall try to be cheerful. I am a 
curious mixture of sensitiveness and hardness. There 
seem to be watertight doors in my mind v/hich I can shut, 
but only on great occasions; I am dimly conscious that 
all is not well within, but I can talk and be interested and 
jest in the furthest room. 

** And anyhow, God bless Eton, and the dear boys, 
and my old comrades here — and never mind me! I 
think I do care more that things should go well here, 
and that the boys should be pure-minded and public- 
spirited, than anything else. I wish they could learn 
something too. But that will be done next, and I shall 
rejoice with all my heart." 



72 



Ill 
1904 

He exulted in the novelty of a holiday with no return 
to school at the end of it. He soon took possession 
of his house at Cambridge, the Old Granary, wedged 
between road and river, its windows overhanging the 
mill-pool and the melodious weir and the pasture 
of Sheep's Green; and here he began to renew his 
relations with the place that he had neglected for so long. 
It was a sudden change, no doubt, from his position 
and authority and much-befriended state at Eton — to 
Cambridge, where indeed he had old friends not a 
few, and where all doors at once flew open to welcome 
him, but where as yet he had no hand in the business 
and no part of his own in the life of the university. 
It was new and strange to find himself a private and 
irresponsible person; but it was the condition that he 
had desired from afar, and for the present he liked it 
very well. Never at any moment, now or later, had 
he the faintest twinge of regret for the life that he had 
abandoned; the task of the schoolmaster dropped off 
him as easily as a load from his back, and he went 
forward, rejoicing in his freedom. 

It was still at Eton, however, not at Cambridge, 
that he spent the greater part of 1904. He set to 
work without delay upon the correspondence of Queen 
Victoria; and for this it was necessary at first to stay 
within reach of Windsor Castle, where the vast col- 
lection of papers to be examined was stored in the 
Round Tower. He lodged accordingly with Ainger, 
who had now resigned his mastership and was livmg 

73 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

in the house, Mustians, that he had built for himself 
at Eton. Here Arthur Benson spent some months 
in great content. The mornings he passed in con- 
suming his work in the Round Tower, fastening upon 
it in a rage of concentration that brought him to the 
end of his scrutiny of the papers before the year was 
out; and after the morning his time was his own, and 
now as never before he could enjoy Eton with a mind 
unburdened. Mustians was the most sociable of 
houses, always open in hospitality to the masters and 
the boys of the school. In these conditions Eton 
was agreeable indeed; and with the opportunity of 
leisure he could find many new friends among the 
boys — of whom Edward Horner should especially be 
named, and Julian Grenfell; friends of a generation 
on which the war was to fall unsparingly, so that hardly 
one of them now survives. And with all these interests 
to make the year a notable one, there was still room 
for more. He edited the Queen's letters with one 
hand, and under the other his own literary work ran 
forward unchecked; for in this year he wrote the 
exceedingly popular Upton Letters, and also a volume 
on Edward FitzGerald, his second contribution to the 
series already mentioned. 

Between whiles he returned when he could to 
Cambridge; and there one day, early in the year, 
strolling through the Backs and by the river, he chanced 
to turn into the court of Magdalene, and was greatly 
struck by the charm of that secluded little college, 
unfamiliar to him. The mastership was vacant at the 
time, and the future of Magdalene none too promising, 
for the college was small and poor; and he wrote that 
evening in his diary of the wish he had felt, standing 
in the court, that good days might be in store for 
it — and even that he might himself have had a hand in 
helping it to flourish. He remembered his wish when 
a little later the name of the new Master of 
Magdalene was declared. It was his old friend, 
Stuart Donaldson, of Eton; and within a few months 
Donaldson had proposed to the college, and the 

74 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

college had unanimously agreed, that a fellowship 
should be offered to Arthur Benson. Nothing could 
have been more welcome; it was exactly the kind of 
position that he had begun to desire at Cambridge, 
and he accepted the offer with deep satisfaction. 
Already in this year he had refused more than one 
invitation of note from other universities, and now 
indeed he could feel that he was justified. As a 
Fellow of Magdalene he could look forward to a life 
of work and companionship entirely to his mind; 
he only hoped that he might be left to enjoy it in 
peace. 

And it happened that immediately after his installa- 
tion at Magdalene in the autumn, news came from 
Eton that disturbed his peace not a little. Warre's 
resignation of the headmastership was announced; and 
so all the old doubts and questions were let loose again, 
and soon they would have to be faced in earnest. It 
was an unlucky moment. Not only had this attrac- 
tive prospect just opened at Cambridge, but the har- 
mony of his days at Eton was now disturbed by a 
controversy, a clash of opinion in which he bore a 
leading and an outspoken part. In educational 
matters he was a keen " reformer," which naturally 
meant that on one side he was a bold pioneer, on the 
other a rash innovator; and in a dispute which had 
arisen at Eton — not connected with the headmaster- 
ship — strong support of his views on one side had 
met, not strangely, with strong opposition on the 
other. Perhaps he was inclined to make a personal 
matter of a simple attack upon his opinions; but 
anyhow he slipped into a mood of displeasure with 
Eton and its ways, or a habit rather than a mood, which 
did not brighten the thought of returning to Eton as 
headmaster. On one point he was quite decided, 
and remained so; he would not come forward as a 
candidate for the post. And if nevertheless it was 
offered him, what then? He preferred to leave the 
question with a sincere hope that the offer would not 
be made. 

75 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

" Eton^ February 12. — I went up to the Castle and met 
the pleasant Miles, the Inspector. . . . They had 
prepared me a great bedroom as well as a sitting-room, but 
I altered that, and took a small room adjoining the sitting- 
room. The interior of the Tower is most quaint and in- 
teresting — odd passages, with oak arches, and a sort of 
open place in the centre, all hung with pictures of 
Prussian and English soldiers, as in the passage down to 
the Castle. I am to approach it by the other stairs. But 
this is inconvenient as the place is locked up to an extent 
I had not realized, and I have no key — I must write to 
Esher about this. 

" My own room is a big room, hung with Hogarth 
engravings and good furniture — a white chair with pink 
satin on wheels was used by the Queen. I did not use 
the room to-day as it was not ready, but worked in the strong- 
room, and went through an interesting lot of Melbourne's 
letters — beginning with one on the morning of the access- 
ion. His writing is very hard to read. It was odd to sit in 
this big room, all surrounded with shelves, with the deep 
embrasure full of guns. The wind roared and the rain 
lashed the window. I was amused and happy. 

'* I went down about 1.30 — lunched and walked with 
A.C.A. We went through, just as everyone was hurry- 
ing into school — * and I not there 1 * But I must not be 
silly about this, or let myself feel that the busy life was a 
really happy one — it was terribly irksome at the end and 
for a long time. 

" The boys are very nice and greet me with great 
warmth. Wedined with Goodhart. This again was rather 
a nightmare, in my own room, with my old furniture, 
and my own servants. G. was in much pain, I saw, 
but got through gallantly. He was not well enough to go 
into the House — so I just went round as in the old days; 
and I confess that this was very painful indeed, though I 
hope I did not show it. I did not know I had so much 
heart; and what I had was * wae.* But it is better to 
get things over at once and not to shirk them. Mrs. 
James wept to see me. So did Martin on meeting me 
in the street. ..." 

76 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

** Cambridge^ April 8. — Such a batch of interesting 
letters. 

" Stuart Donaldson is Master of Magdalene ! — I could 
really envy him this. I have thought very tenderly ot 
the poor little College — so beautiful and stately and 
venerable, and yet so out of elbows and out of heart. I 
made a prayer that I might be perhaps allowed to raise 
her up. There are very few posts in England I desire; 
but this is one — I should like a small, definite, thorough 
job to do. I don't suppose I should like it at all really — 
I shouldn't like stiff Fellows, and feeble, querulous 
undergraduates, and fading revenues; and then the 
endless hospitality and the probability of having to take 
a lot of College work — and the Vice-Chancellorship — 
it would not really suit me in the least; yet I would have 
taken it with courage and desire — probably from the 
wrong motives. Anyhow I am not offered it (though I 
thought from a chance remark the other day that I 
might be). 

" Well, Donald has taken it; and he is an ideal person. 
He is kind, simple, hospitable — his wife is exactly in the 
right place. They are well-off. He is industrious; the 
undergrads will adore him; he will coach the boat, he will 
do everything I could not do, and lift the place on his 
shoulders. All that is wanted is that he should go and 
laugh in the courts, once in each, and the place will 
recover heart at once. He wrote me a very affectionate 
letter. ..." 

For an Easter holiday he chose, as usual, a country 
inn, this time the Lygon Arms at Broadway, with 
H. F. W. Tatham for his companion. The following 
account of one of his days of exploration is typical 
of very many, in this and other years. 

** Broadway, April 18. — A day of settled summer 
weather — cool easterly breeze and a hot sun. I dreamt 
furiously, and rose irritable. We rode to Hinton, start- 
ing 10.45. ^^ ^^ ^^ unimpressive road, and distant 
views were all blurred in haze. But at Hinton itself we 

77 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

found a beautiful old gateway leading to a manor, and a 
rather dull little over-restored church; but such a quiet 
out-of-the-world place. On getting off at the station 
found myself hot and slack; a pleasant, rather loquacious, 
young porter, with Birmingham manners. Train to 
Ashchurch, a mysterious junction, where three lines 
meet, and where one line goes across another almost at 
right angles. You can see from Ashchurch station a 
huge length of line — five miles, I should say, at least, 
quite straight. The old church looks on with 
melancholy over the roofs of farm buildings. Then 
to Gloucester; and rode in to the Cathedral through a 
murky, commercial-looking sort of town, of chimneys, 
and yards with piles of timber, and gasworks and ugly 
rows of red-brick houses. Then on turning into 
College Green, or whatever they call it, all is peace; and 
that exquisite Cathedral is surrounded by these quiet 
houses of infinite variety. Many of them red-brick 
Georgian places — a couple of thin-legged gaitered 
ecclesiastics, one in shovel-hat, one in square cap, were 
walking briskly up and down the path of the Chapter 
garden. We went in, strolled about, read inscriptions, 
stared at statues. There is a Jenner^ which, though of 
white marble, tends to convey the impression that he had 
a heavy cold and a red nose. There are two angels 
apparently squabbling over a medallion, on which is 
depicted a very bluff and fierce old man in high 
collars. . . . 

" I came here with Papa twenty-five or twenty-six 
years ago, and it is odd how little of the detail I can 
remember. We put up at the Bell. He had no sense 
of comfort, and we sate miserably in a pokey inn draw- 
ing-room with three frozen females — and then we had 
prayers in his bedroom and said vespers, I think, at great 
length — the chambermaid coming in in the middle, a 
grief to me. Papa always felt the need of economy at an 
inn — had a small bottle of claret, out of which we each 
had one glass, and then it was corked up for next night. 
He would have liked to be comfortable, but didn't know 
how, I think — his fear of waste was so strong. I 

78 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

remember wandering about the first evening and finding 
a shockingly profiine practice going on in a strikingly 
beautiful little church near the Cathedral. I don't 
remember much else except his fearful avoidance of all 
resident dignitaries and his horror of being possibly 
involved insocial claims — as if an English Bishop in a 
shovel-hat could wander for days about a Cathedral 
close, and no civilities offered him! 

" We went round [to-day] with an old, very pompous 
and tiresome verger, who had got his lesson by heart, 
and could answer no question outside of it. I don't 
want to be taken round, and lectured. I want to wander 
about, ask questions, and be just shown interesting 
things if 1 fail to notice them for myself. 

*' What impressed me most of all were three tombs. 
Poor Edward II, looking so smooth and handsome and 
weak, with his delicate nose and eyes, and his carefully 
curled beard. Then OsriCy a grim old Saxon, with a 
shaven upper lip and archaic beard, like a dissenting 
grocer. Then a noble (fourteenth century) wooden 
painted figure of Robert, Duke of Normandy, in mail, 
with a red mantle, as if starting up from sleep. 

" I like the organ and the close screen ; but the stalls are 
poor — and they have put in weak Gothic desks and a feeble 
little throne, like a Punch and Judy show, and put the fine 
Jacobean woodwork into the nave, while upstairs are a few 
splendid Corinthian columns and carved panels of fruit and 
flowers of a destroyed baldacchino. Heart-breaking! 

" Mr. Kempe* is everyzvhere. I really begin to 
hate his glass; the same simpering faces everywhere. It 
seems to me that he has entirely crystallised into a tra- 
dition, and is simply throwing out glass on the same lines 
without the slightest thought or intellectual ardour. . . . 
The Lady Chapel is delicious, with its coloured ray and 
its many lines — and its galleried chantries high up. We 
visited Bishop Benson's grave put away in a gallery — 
and then to fill up the cup of my happiness, someone, 
quite unskilled, came and practised on the organ; the 

• Mr. C. E. Kempe, the distinguished artist of church-decoration, was a 
friend and neighbour of the Bensons in Sussex. He died in 1907. 

79 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

music came to me like a heavenly manna — music just 
fills up the impression one wants from a great noble 
building like that; sight is satisfied, and hearing still 
athirst. The rolling of the pedals, the shrill principals 
echoing in the roof seemed to me not sound, but almost 
some sweet and tangible potion. We loitered about, 
looking at houses, went through these splendid cloisters, 
still all fitted for active and stately life; then we rode off 
through the sunny flat to Cheltenham — the wind some- 
what against us — but the bluffs of the Cotswolds looking 
very fine on the horizon — a church crowning a hill on 
the right, which rose very steeply out of the green flat. 
As we neared Cheltenham began to meet odious leisurely 
persons, male and female, riding together, conscious of 
great social superiority. 

" Cheltenham is a terrible place; its size, its respect- 
ability, its boulevards, its rows of good houses, its 
generally townified air, make it insupportable — yet the 
bleak hills look over the house-roofs. We turned into 
one street and could have believed ourselves in a foreign 
town — a bright broad place of white houses, with an 
avenue of planes — a string-band playing, little Victorias 
plying about, children with sunhats, a chattering crowd. 
It was rather pleasant. . . . 

"... Then we began to ascend Cleeve Hill. Passed a 
very charming old red-brick farm among walnuts half- 
way up; but new houses are perching themselves every- 
where, like foul birds of prey. Still the view is noble — 
a huge wide-watered plain, full of fields, hamlets, woods 
and streams for miles, ending in shadowy hills. The haze 
dimmed and gilded it all. Gloucester tower stood out 
black and dark. The Hill itself quite wild and down- 
like at the top. But there were trams ascending and 
descending, elderly military men taking constitutionals 
— wayside restaurants with people having tea, young 
people sporting upon the grass-grown downs. We 
reached the top, with its four cross-roads, and in a 
moment were in silence and ancient rustic peace — not a 
soul to be seen; but Winchcombe 800 feet below, and 
Sudeley Castle in its woods. 

80 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

** Two little things I noticed in Cheltenham which I 
must record; one a complacent, red-faced, flourishing- 
looking old gentleman, apparently in bed, at an upper 
window open to the street, suffering, I suppose, from 
gout, and looking most benevolently about him. The 
other, a very different kind of invalid, pale, worn, sunken 
over the temples, with lank hair; driving with his mother 
— he was quite a young man — she, looking so tenderly 
at him, said something as we passed — he frowned and 
shook his head. He looked afraid. 

" We rode quickly through Winchcombe, by familiar 
roads, and were soon comfortably at home. ..." 

** London^ April 29. — I found Childers* [at the 
Athenasum] and we arranged details of work. We then 
dined quietly, and went to smoking-room. There 
entered Henry James, Thomas Hardy and another, an 
owlish man, lantern-jawed and bald, with a mildness of 
demeanour which I disliked, but which I am conscious 
that I am apt to assume, when shy. 

" I took H J. to a secluded seat, and we had a talk. 
... I questioned him about his ways of work. He 
admitted that he worked every day, dictated every morn- 
ing, and began a new book the instant the old one was 
finished. He said it was his only chance because he 
worked so slowly, and excised so much. I asked him 
when the inception and design of a new book was formed; 
and he gave no satisfactory answer to this except to roll 
his eyes, to wave his hand about, to pat my knee and to 

say, ' It's all about^ it's about it's in the air it, 

so to speak, follows me and dogs me.' Then Hardy came 
up and sate down the other side of me. I make it a rule 
never to introduce myself to the notice of distinguished 
men, unless they recognise me; Hardy had looked 
at me, then looked away, suffused by a misty smile, and 
I presently gathered that this was a recognition — he 
seemed hurt by my not speaking to him. . . . Then we 
had an odd triangular talk. Hardy could not hear what 

• His old friend and contemporary, H. R. E. Childers (who died in 1912), 
w&s now associated with him in the work on Queen Victoria's correspondence. 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

H.J. said, nor H.J. what Hardy said; and I had to try and 
keep the ball going. I felt like Alice between the two 
Queens. Hardytalkedrather interestingly of Newman. . . . 
He said very firmly that N. was no logician; that the 
Apologia was simply a poet's work, with a kind of lattice- 
work of logic in places to screen the poetry. We talked 
of Maxime Du Camp and Flaubert, and H.J. delivered 
himself very oracularly on the latter. Then Hardy went 
away wearily and kindly. Then H.J. and I talked of 
Howard's Belchamber* H.J. said that it was a good 
idea, a good situation. ' He kindly read it to me; and we 
approached the denouement in a pleasant Thackerayan 
manner — and then it was suddenly all at an end. 
He had had his chance and he had made nothing of it. 
Good Heavens, I said to myself, he has made nothing of 
it! I tried, with a thousand subterfuges and doublings, 
such as one uses with the work of a friend, to indicate 
this. I hinted that the interest of the situation was not 
the experiences — which were dull and shabby and 
disagreeable enough in all conscience, and not disguised 
by the aristocratic atmosphere — not the experiences^ but 
the effect of the fall of wave after disastrous wave upon 
Sainty's soul — if one can use the expression for such a 
spark of quality as was inside the poor rat — that was the 
interest, and I said to myself, " Good God, why this 
chronicle, if it is a mere passage, a mere ante-chamber, 
and leads to nothing." ' 

" I think I have got this marvellous tirade nearly 
correct. ..." 

" Eton, May 9 ... In the evening we dined with 
Warre. ... I sate next Warre, who was very pathetic. 
He was very kind in manner; he led me down to dinner 
with his arm in mine; and I did love him; but he struck 
me as ill and weak and worn out, without spring or 
enthusiasm, indolent and rather sad. He complained 
of not feeling well, he drank a green medicine during 
dinner. He said he was getting deaf; he was silent; 
and for all his strength and full-bloodedness he looked 

* Howard Sturgis's novel, Belchamber, had just then appeared. 
82 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

haggard. After dinner he led me away and gave me a 
leaving-book — a Gray. He had written my name in it, 
and I thought had prepared a little speech to make me; 
but he stood dumb and embarrassed, holding the book 
in his big hands. Then he suddenly put it into mine, 
and I saw his eyes were full of tears; he shook my hand 
silently — and I confess it moved me inexpressibly. This 
big, strong, successful man, with all his work and 
vigour — and holding on in this melancholy way to work 
he cannot do. But I felt nothing but pity and affec- 
tion. Then he said, ' I look forward to your having a 
long, useful and happy life — and sometimes, when I am 
gone — meminisse met.' I could not speak; and we came 
back to the drawing-room; Mrs. Foljambe played some 
sweet little soft tunes — Norwegian — and Warre asked 
for an old piece, which he said had often composed him; 
then we settled down into dulness again until we went 
away. But I felt as if I had received somehow a 
patriarchal blessing. ..." 

*' Etorij August 4. — I worked like a black at the Castle 
and have sent off 167 slips. . . . 

" Horribly and detestably hot. I went out for a 
bicycle ride and was caught in the rain. I stood for 
awhile in shelter at the gate of Huntercombe, and saw 
the grey outline of Ashley Hill blotted by the sweeping 
storm. Who can say that romance is dead, when one 
can stand by such a place as Huntercombe, with its 
limes whispering in the rain, and see the distant 
hills.? ... 

" I sped on in the rain, and sheltered again by Fellow's 
Pond, under a huge elm, watching the drops criss-cross 
in the dark and silent pool. What a romantic place! I 
have known it for thirty years — my first Sunday Boyle 
and I walked there, and I thought it beautiful even then. 
Every corner has a little sweet sunny memory of its own, 
and my heart aches rather at the thought of the good 
days gone. J. used often to lie there on a rug in the hot 
summer afternoons and read. But I was always a little 
overshadowed by work, as a boy, and anxieties. I came 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

in, had tea, and worked again at proofs. I am not tired, 
but a little bored and stale with this hot weather — and 
with an odd desirous yearning of the heart to the very 
thing I have turned my back on all these years. One 
ought to be married, no doubt; but it is too late now — 
and I think I love my liberty better. 

'* Still reading Kipling. I think the Gadshys an 
extraordinary document, so human, so unpleasing — the 
love-affairs of a cad ! . . . 

" The misery of my unoccupied existence is that I 
read and devour so fast. I can't meditate; I can't rest 
in the beauty I see so easily. I seem to note it, to say 
' that is beautiful,' and then it is over. From my window 
I can see by the cemetery chapel spire a little blue 
hill, over soft woodland ridges, waiting, under the evening 
sky; unutterably peaceful and sweet. Nearer, it would 
all fall into fields and elms; but seen like this, it is just 
like a retrospect of one's own life. 

" One pretty thing in the afternoon which I forgot to 
record was a silent battalion of cavalry, in khaki, who 
rode, for my pleasure, no doubt, over Dorney Common. 
First scouts; then the column, galloping on the turf with 
a fine clinking and clattering; and then a scout again, 
with a riderless horse; that looked like war. ..." 

In August he was in Scotland, staying with the 
Donaldsons at Humbie House, East Lothian. 

*' Humhie^ August 30. — This was a noble day. Willy 
Leigh arrived at breakfast, looking very spick and span. 
We determined on Melrose. . . . Stuart, W.L. and I 
set off; we went right up on to Soutra Moor, such a fine 
wild place, with a great low dark mountain to the West. 
Then on and down, thridding these noble moorlands; 
lunching just above Glengelt, opposite a heathery corrie. 
We were soon at Lauder, a grim little town, but with 
a pleasing high, octagonal tower. Then through 
Earlston; but a south wind blew steadily and held us up. 
Then a great couchant mountain loomed up on the left; 
then we crossed the Tweed, such a noble river, on a 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

splendid bridge, a high viaduct, red and spindle-shanked, 
to the right. Then a great dark mountain came 
solemnly up — Eildon^ the very name of which gives me a 
shiver. We were soon at Melrose, found Lady Alba 
and Miss Cochrane. The ruins are extraordinarily 
beautiful. I never saw more exquisite Gothic; and in a 
soft red stone, which mellows to lilac. The grass, hare- 
bells and ragwort, growing high on the arches, very 
delightful. Saw the grave of Michael Scott and other 
things which were dear to the childish mind; the cloisters, 
and a long walk between walls, bordered with annuals, 
very beautiful. I liked the look of Melrose, a largish 
town, like a Cathedral town. But I don't really like a 
ruin ; I always want to see it rebuilt. There is something 
dreary and melancholy, not pleasingly so, about the poor 
bones of a holy and beautiful house that distresses me. 
The great east window (which Scott calls an orieP) is very 
delicate. 

" We had tea, and in consequence of my urgent desire 
drove off to Abbotsford. I forgot to mention a young 
cyclist, who lay reading a great book on a bank, gazing 
up from time to time, like a bird drinking, at a big 
mountain opposite him. 

" The scene of Abbotsford very disappointing — tame 
hills, tame plantations, and the smoke and chimneys 
of Galashiels. There are a lot of horrible houses, 
manufacturers' villas, etc., on the bank opposite. 

" The place was much bigger than I had supposed. 
It is let for the summer. . . . and the public are not 
allowed to see much. You go in by a side gate, among 
walls and hedges, through a square-walled garden of 
turf and yews; and then you are taken into five or six 
rooms only. But it was vastly interesting. One seemed 
to get near to Scott. 

" The things I was most interested in were (i) the 
death-mask. A cap had been drawn over the hair; but 
it shows the domed forehead and the homely face — the 
lips fallen loose, the cheeks flaccid; (2) the big leather 
chair and desk where he worked, and the secret door 
by which he could steal down, early and late; (3) the 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

hideous, and yet adorable, orange Gothic glass, which 
shows how very imperfect his taste was. 

" I was not interested in the collections — swords and 
purses and caps and odds and ends, mostly historical, 
and much like other swords and caps. 

" But I did like to see the funny white tall-hat, of 
rough beaver, with a broad brim, which he wore, and the 
rough black, square-toed shoes; and the silk black-and- 
white waistcoat, like a footman's. That brought him 
near somehow. 

" The Raeburn portrait I thought affected; but there 
was a pretty one of Mrs. Scott, and an evil one of Mary 
Queen of Scots' head^ after execution; a bare red neck! 
Scott appeared to me here what he was; a great big jolly 
child — making a toy-house of Abbotsford, collecting old 
bric-k-brac, pretending to be everything but what he 
was, and enjoying that like a child; keeping up the silly 
mystification about the books, as though ashamed of it; 
* Not caring a curse,' as he said to Lockhart, ' about what 
he wrote ' ; writing carelessly, cheerfully, without erasures 
or corrections (I am astonished at the Lay, which we have 
been reading aloud; at the great beauty of some of it and 
the incredible badness and thinness of much of it, the 
want of plan and finish and order, etc.); not a wise, tender 
craftsman, enamoured of beauty, dreaming of hopeless 
loveliness and the impossibility of expressing what is in 
the heart, but a rollicking teller of tales. I don't say the 
craftsman is nobler from the point of view of virtue — as 
a man Scott was a noble, generous fellow; but an artist 
ought to be more of a priest, I think, and live in mystery 
and wonder and remoteness, as Wordsworth did, and 
Rossetti, and many other worse men and yet greater 
artists than W.S. Scott went about planting and fishing 
and slapping people on the back and bawling them 
out of bed at six in the morning, and pretending not to 
write (I should have died of a visit to Abbotsford), and 
so he went on, a jolly boy to nearly the end; and after that 
a very good and gallant boy, suffering and working; but 
with a whole dim and beautiful world of which he was 
ignorant. 

86 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

*' As I write this in the dusk W. Leigh is playing a 
sweet low sad thing in the drawing-room below; and 
that strange waft or tenderness and yearning that such 
music in these dim half-lit hours brings, comes flowing 
over my spirit. I don't think I could have said that to 
Scott; I think he would have laughed and offered me 
his fly-book and a draught of ale! 

" It is very pathetic to think of the old fellow at the 
end, broken down and dispirited, coining blood into 
gold, and all because he had been a fool about money. 
It was a sad chastisement in kind. He spent /," 120,000 
on Abbotsford ! 

" I rather liked the absurd sham Gothic armouries and 
the hall and the big library — very rococo and trumpery, 
but the effect good. What I don't like is the way 
in which he despoiled Abbeys, and built the old niches 
in to his gimcrack palace. But it ends by being a stately 
house, all the same. And a spirit over it all, which is 
high and simple and beautiful. ..." 

** September 8. — The sad bare Berwickshire coast 
pleased me; but the engine poured a stream of steam 
like cotton-wool past the windows. 

" It seemed that I was soon at York. I had two hours 
to wait. I went and prowled about and saw some 
pleasant houses and picturesque purlieus. The view of 
the Cathedral from beyond the Chapter House is noble. 
But the east view is horrible, it comes down on to a dirty 
pavement, and the design is weak. They have been 
clearing away old huddling houses from the neighbour- 
hood of the Cathedral — a great mistake from the 
picturesque point of view. It began to rain, and after 
admiring the red and fretted front of St. William's 
College, I went within. The glass is noble; and the 
whole place is so rich and dim that it thrills one. I can't 
set down all my impressions. I was pleased to find my 
patron St. Christopher, in the nave. I was glad, too, 
to find an iron pierced screen, locked, that led into the 
venerable dark passage, of extraordinary stateliness, that 
leads to the Chapter House. It is this mystery that 

87 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

enhances one's pleasure in such a place. I rambled to 
and fro — laughed at the Caroline Archbishops, sitting 
uneasily among cushions, holding Bibles, and pointing, 
with weeping cherubs, who look as if they had been 
soundly whipped. But I do like variety! 

" I saw that Mr. Kempe had been to work. There he was 
in many postures, wrapped up in carpets and staggering 
under the weight of jewelled chalices in window after 
window, faint, handsome and affected. I sincerely 
liked poor old Peckett, in the South Transept, better. 
But why depict Truth as a glaring Turkish Bashaw.'' And 
the other figures in the infamously designed niches are 
all grimacing. I don't suppose they will survive. What 
fools people are in matters of taste ! A mediaeval angel 
was much more absurd in an eastern window of the tran- 
sept, with a pinched and chilly face, and feathered 
trousers! Truly grotesque! Yet Mr. Kempe and 
Monty James would praise it. 

" A verger took a party round, and talked so pleasantly 
and gently; I did not listen to much he said, but just 
crept about in the holy gloom, and felt the awe of 
the huge solemn place, so filled with tradition and 
splendour, creep into my mind. That feeling is worth ten 
thousand cicerones telling you what everything is. I don't 
want to know; indeed, I want not to know; it is enough 
that I am deeply moved. A foolish antiquarian was 
with the party, asking silly questions and contradicting 
everything. Such a goose, and so proud of being 
learned! The wealth and air of use pleased me. Yet 
the spirit which built it is all gone, I think. 

" Religion — by which I mean services and dogmas 
— what is it.'' I sometimes think it is like tobacco, 
chewed by hungry men to stay the famished stomach. 
And perhaps the real food for which we starve is 
death. 

" I had to go away before the service. Caught the 
4.30. Lincoln looked very solemn and noble in a kind 
of grey haze, like Camelot. Then the dark began to 
fall, in a cold sunset. I was horribly bored before the 
end; wrote a hymn . . ." 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

Like his father before him, Arthur Benson was 
all his life a dreamer of vivid and fantastic dreams. 
Of the many that are recorded in the diary one or 
two have already been quoted, and here is now 
another. 

'' Tremans^ September 11. — I had a long and very 
absurd dream. It was a trial, in which the defendants, 
or rather prisoners, were myself, a man whom I knew 
to be Lord Morton, and third, unknown to me. I could 
not discover what we were being tried for. It was before 
a mixed assembly, which I supposed to be the House of 
Lords ; a judge in a wig presiding. It was just like Alice 
in Wonderland. By attentive listening I discovered it 
to be a case of conspiracy; and the only definite charge 
that was made was that in the presence of Arthur 
Heygate, who was a witness, someone had said that the 
only way to punish the Colonial Secretary for his political 
mistakes was by not asking him to dinner. To this I 
was supposed to have assented, though I had no sort of 
recollection of the incident. 

" At the conclusion of the first morning Lord Morton 
was condemned to be executed. I saw it carried out. 
We went together to a place outside, where there was a 
flight of steps. He laid his head down, and a man with 
an axe cut pretty deep into his neck. I saw into the cut, 
it was like a currant tart. He then rose, and walked a 
few paces with me; but saying that he felt ill (no wonder) 
sat down, soon sank down and died. 

** After this the trial, which had before been an amuse- 
ment, became an anxiety to me. It continued, with all 
sorts of irrelevant speeches. ' I never will desert the 
Navy,' said one man at the conclusion of an impassioned 
speech. I beckoned a man in a wig to speak to me, and 
said to him, ' Can't someone make it clear that I know 
nothing about the case.-* ' He said, ' Oh, it will be all 
right.' 

'* The Bishop of Winchester rose among others to 
speak, very affectedly, dressed in full robes, with many 
odd ornaments, leaning his hand upon Ed. Ryle's 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

shoulder. He said in the course of his speech, which I 
thought weak, that he had had his pocket picked on the 
previous day, and had lost a gold pencil-case, which had 
belonged to his father, and which he greatly valued. 
' But far more,' he went on, * did I feel the loss of an 
MS. which the pocket contained — one of dear Arthur 
Benson's letters.' This I thought to be in poor taste, 
but saw that it had produced a favourable impression. 
I was overshadowed all the time by an urgent fear of 
death, but speculating as to whether the sort of execution 
I had witnessed would hurt. I said to a lawyer who 
came up, * I should not so much mind if I were 
dying in a good cause; but to be executed on a charge 
which I cannot comprehend, supported by incidents 
which I cannot recollect, seems almost grotesque.' 
He smiled, and said, ' Others have felt the same 
before you,' which I felt to be unfeeling. I was then 
called. ..." 

" Eton^ October 25. — A most glorious autumn day; 
sun and freshness. These are the noblest days of the 
year. I worked very hard at the Castle — but had an odd 
letter from asking my ' intentions ' about the head- 
mastership. ... I told him exactly how I stood. But 
it is borne in more and more upon me that it is no place 
for me. My delight in my present quiet life, with its 
sedate occupations; my intense sense of freedom in getting 
rid of the people, the talk, the scurrying to and fro; my 
deficiency of vague geniality, my dislike of occasions and 
formal appearances; all these seem to unfit me, or rather 
to subtract the zest which ought to be inseparable from 
good work. I could not, I think, give up my literary 
occupations. 

" Then I am not large-minded enough. A head- 
master ought to be partly like a brooding hen, sitting 
contentedly on her eggs or sheltering her chickens, with 
a tranquil and maternal love of life and company; and 
partly like a gallant fighting-cock, strutting fiercely 
about. I am neither; and the prospect, I find, is fading 
quite out of my view. . . . 

90 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

"Then I rode alone by Maidenhead and Marlow — 
the Bisham woods very splendid, russet-brown and 
gold. ... I rode fiercely home; got in at 5; and then 
wrote a little blood-curdling story for C. Hargreaves* 
new magazine. He had asked me cheerfully for a 
contribution — ' about 2,000 words,' he said. These 
boys never realise that it could be a strain — I suppose 
that is a compliment. . . . 

I will not forget the exquisite sunset of to-day — 
such glowing, tender streaks of orange cloud, with a dim 
rich orange glow in the west, calling me with a far-off and 
gentle voice. I can't analyse the feeling that such a 
sight gives me. And yet it is generally accompanied 
with a sad reaching-out after a mystery — a feeling ' how 
beautiful it is, and how much it could do for me, if only ' 
— and then one's weaknesses come streaming in." 

" November 3. — Worked hard at the Castle — and I 
make progress; the end is in sight, that is of selection. 
In the afternoon I rode with the Vice-Provost.* We 
plunged, of course, into the headmastership question, 
and he accused me of being too nonchalant. I told him 
just what I felt; how far from insensible I was to the 
glories of the post, but was determined not to let that side 
weigh. He spoke very frankly, but nothing that he said 
altered my view. If they want me, I will go into the 
question. If they do not, I am quite content. He said 
that if it were clearly understood that I desired to try, it 
would probably put me ahead of the field. But I don't 
desire it. It ought not to be a question of sending in 
names. It should be treated like a bishopric. Fancy 
papa sending in his name for the archbishopric! When ^ 
we had passed Wraysbury, after many wild directions W 
from the V.P., I begged him to talk of cooler things ; these ^ 
other matters are too hot in the mouth. So we plunged 
into the life of Walter Scott, the Austrian War of '59, 
and other pleasant matters. Went up Priests' Hill, and 
through the Park; but the wide landscape was shrouded 
in faint mists, all vague, shadowy ridges, no light or 

* F. VV. Warre-Cornish, Vice-Provost of Eton from 1893, di^d in 1916, 
91 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

colour. Met A.C.A. and Edward Horner, and they were 
so much disconcerted that I saw they had been talking 
of me. The Duke and Duchess of Sutherland to tea. 
He is a pleasant, courteous, rather uncouth, shy man — 
whom I like. The Duchess in her most Circean beauty; 
she told me that the pretty motto on her title-page was 
her own — and then talked of poetry — Yeats, etc. — 
with a good deal of discrimination. . . . The 
delightful Alastair, like a little robin, sate next me, 
and chirped in my ear. It was a pleasant party. ..." 

The Eton masters are represented on the Govern- 
ing Body of the school by a member whom they elect. 
This post was now vacant, and it was by some 
suggested that Arthur Benson should stand for it. 
He was very willing to do so; but owing to the 
divergence of opinion in the matter of his educational 
policy he eventually decided to withdraw. 

** Eton^ November 6. ... I see I must not set my 
heart upon this thing. I am obviously thought too 
strong a Liberal by many of my old colleagues. I expect 
that this great shuffle of posts, places and opportunities, 
will leave me just where I was, with just the added touch 
of ineffectiveness which hangs round an unsuccessful 
man. Well, I like solitude and books and simple life 
more and more. I would willingly give up all these 
pomps and vanities, if I could but do what I feel I 
could do, if I only could just get on to the right 
lines — ^write a beautiful book — which should help and 
satisfy people. I can express what I mean; and I 
have some real thoughts. But I can't quite find the 
medium. 

*' To chapel, fearing that the great swarm of old boys 
would make it unbearable — but there were fewer than 
usual. . . . 

" The good Lloyd played the * Ave Maria,' * to please 
me; and I again take this opportunity of saying that I 

* By Henselt. Unfortunately his wish was not known in time for it to 
be played at his funeral. 

92 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

should wish it to be played at my funeral. Also he had 
set down Parry in D minor for me — and with these and 
Turle's chants I was well entertained. A mission ser- 
mon, by a nice, simple man — really good — simple stories 
of Selw\'n. I should like to have sharpened the points 
a little, and put in a few Stevensonian touches; but it was 
really fine. The appeal at the end was feeble. 

"Walked with Hare to Sheep's Bridge; and then 
rather desolately back. I have been rolling before a full 
wind lately; and to-day it slackens; the sails drop. I 
feel to-day as if I were to be one of those people, with 
some gifts, but who are destined to effect nothing, to carry 
nothing through, by reason of some slack fibre in their 
souls. 

*' I put up a wild-duck in the river to-day, by Sixth 
Form Bench. It flew briskly away. That did me 
good. 

*' Magna fides avium est : experiamur aves. 

"... To-day I want to get away from Eton; to be 
at Cambridge, or better still at Tremans — to be out 
of this rather suspicious, rather gossipy, intriguing 
atmosphere. ' The isle is full of noises '; but they don't 
give delight, and they do hurt." 

'^November 12. . . . I now come back to Saturday. 
I sent my bag in a bus, and bicycled to Slough. Of 
course the bag didn't turn up, so I rushed in a cab to the 
inn-yard, where I found it just being shouldered by a 
leisurely boy. Saved it and caught train — saw 
Cornwallis and Harold Lubbock, going off for leave. 

" Drove straight to Regent's Park; found Gosse hot 
and rosy, in his velvet coat, having walked to Welsh 
Harp — which ought to do him good — he is much too 
sedentary. But I wish he had waited till the afternoon, 
so that we might have walked together. 

" Mrs. Gosse came in looking very kind, sturdy and 
rosy. While lunch was preparing, G. and I walked 
arm-in-arm up and down the little gravelled garden. 
He spoke to me very kindly and frankly — very anxious 
I should accept Eton if offered. . . . He says my energy 

93 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

is restless and sub-divided, and wants one channel. But 
my channel is now literature, with a slight * hem ' of 
academical duties. (What a metaphor !) He did not like 
my * Isles of Sunset ' — thought it should have been 
written in verse; thought I was doing too much, and 
ought to be silent for a bit; praised the ' Rossetti,' and 
said it had made me a real position. I pointed out that 
I did my best, that my work was not hurried nor 
particularly slipshod; that one must follow one's bent in 
the fruitful years; that he wrote much more than I did. 
This was interrupted by unsuccessful attempts to catch 
Mopsy, the great black, surly cat. I don't think I 
converted him; but he said smiling, * Perhaps it is only 
jealousy, after all ' — and we went in to lunch. 

" Lunch was profuse and delicate. Tessa was there, 
very frail. But I liked the look of Sylvia, who has taken 
up art, and works diligently. She looked healthy, 
bright-eyed, with a dancing light of zest about her. 
There was a big picture of hers in the room, of fir-trees 
and ferns and woodland — very carefully studied, but a 
little too pale in colour. 

" We then — -Gosse and I — sate about and talked all 
the long afternoon. Philip, very bright and cheerful, 
liking his work, came in for a little. But we mostly 
talked, very easily and simply about literature and life. 
A good deal about Pater. . . . 

" Gosse said, with much solemnity and serious feeling 
— a mood which one sees but rarely, and is then very 
moving — that the older he grew the more he felt that 
personality and individuality were the qualities in art; 
that nothing else mattered much. ' I may or may not 
agree with a man on questions of morals and art, but all 
I desire is to feel that it is a perfectly sincere point 
of view.' 

** So we talked while the day darkened without. 
Then tea; and then, to my great surprise, which moved 
me a good deal, he accompanied me to St. Pancras; 
where, in the great big echoing station I met P. 
Lubbock. Gosse was most affectionate and paid me what 
is the best compliment of all — said my visit had comforted 

94 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

and cheered him up. ' We care about the same things 
and in the same way,' he added — * we must continue to 
see something of each other regularly.'' ..." 

" Eiori^ December 1 1 . — . . . Then, against my custom, I 
crept to chapel. I hated Noble's Magnificat and its 
ugly ending. But 'Hear My Prayer' was delicious; 
though to-day it had no inner voice for me. And yet 
even now in this book, where I write so freely, I cannot 
say what I mostly thought about; vague reveries, tending 
one way. 

" Then I sate while Lloyd played a Handel Concerto. 
The trampling of feet died away. The chink of coin 
(there was a collection) became fainter. The lights 
began to die out; and then Lloyd played absorbed, while 
the huge organ brayed and thundered above, or let fall 
musical showers of sound. . . . 

" I find myself very full of work, very full of thought. 
But I think I am too discursive just now. I wish I 
could read more; I don't see many people, and I desire 
that less and less. . . . 

" It was very strange to look down into the flaring 
chapel to-night, with its dark roof; the familiar smell; 
everything as it has always been; just so it looked thirty 
years ago when I sate as a Colleger in the seat just below. 
That life seemed so intense and absorbing then; the 
relations to other people so important and distracting. 
I wish — but what is the good of wishing? — I had had a 
more definite aim and principle. I was then like a reed 
in a stream, plucked this way and that by wind and water. 
I think I am not very different now; but I know my own 
mind more; and a dim ideal seems to shape itself. I 
wish that it led me to desire to rule this big place; but 
the burden is too great, the issues too enormous. How 
little I guessed, as I sate down there thirty years ago, 
staring at Hornby in his stall, that I might have even the 
chance of sitting in that stall myself! 

" But this is a fruitless reverie, for I don't mean to 
sit there — even if I have a chance. And how much 
stranger it is to reflect that if I had supposed I might 

95 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

have had a chance of sitting there, I should not desire 
to do so. It seemed so easy a thing to be a Head- 
master then. 

" And now I like my stall at Magdalene better. 
That little place, the tiny chapel, the little ivied court, 
draw me with a far tenderer longing." 

The visit described in the following extract is 
referred to in the sketch of Charles Fairfax Murray, 
the well-known collector and connoisseur, included 
in Memories and Friends (1924). The gift of the 
" Spanish MS." was the first of Fairfax Murray's 
many and generous benefactions to the Fitzwilliam 
Museum at Cambridge. 

''December 16. . . . I had had a bad night, full of 
wild dreams; went up to town horribly sleepy and tired, 
and drove to the Grange; found M. R. James* there 
already. 

" Fairfax Murray had asked me if I knew anything 
of ' M. R. James, Director or late Director of the 
Fitzwilliam,' as he thought of offering them a Spanish 
MS. I replied that he was one of my oldest friends. 
F.M. thereupon asked me to arrange a meeting. So 
I did. 

*' He was showing M.R.J, the most splendid and 
sumptuous MSS., things which possess not the faintest 
interest for me. The colour of the miniatures is rather 
pleasing; but I would not give 2s. 6d. for the best MS. 
of the thirteenth century, except in order to sell it 
again. 

*' But he showed Monty about fifteen of these — and 
I saw he was in a generous mood. He suddenly said, 
* I will send you al/ these if you like — and I want to give 
you all my autographs of Italian painters, and all the 
original MSS. of William Morris and Rossetti.' I 
suppose that the value of this gift is several thousand 
pounds. F.M. went on, ' I have a very great objection 

* Dr. M. R. James, afterwards Provost of King's, and since 1918 Provost 
of Eton, was at this time Director of the Fitzwiliiam Museum. 

96 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

to the death duties; and there are certain things in my 
hands I don't want to get sold — so I propose to give 
away ever)-thing, except what may be sold.' 

" This was rather splendid and simple — and he went 
on, ' Our friend here (me) will tell you that I want no 
sort of recognition. I hope it won't get into the Press — 
I would rather it were anonymous.' M.R.J, said with 
great tact, ' Well, we only desire to thank people in the 
way they like best.' 

" The rest of the afternoon, with an interval for tea, 
was just wandering about among his wonderful things 
and looking. He carried a great branch-candlestick. 
He and M.R.J, got on the early printed books, which 
did not interest me; so I got a book called Melusine^ 
with enchanting woodcuts, that gave me some ideas for 
stories. 

" But here again the value of the afternoon was its 
atmosphere. To wander about in these great warm 
darkening rooms, with these splendid and beautiful things 
ever}'where, did one good. He is a very delightful 
simple man, and I have a real affection for him. I 
can't quite make out his mind. I think he has the mind 
of a collector through and through ; his reminiscences of 
people are all exact impressions, always with a certain 
quality (and he is a good raconteur, having a considerable 
dramatic gift); but they are quite without any proportion, 
and he will press quite unimportant details, apparently 
quite unaware they are unimportant. But his big 
head, frank eyes, and the simplicity, kindliness and 
childlike honesty of his talk make him an attractive 
fellow. 

" I should like some of his portraits and pictures; but 
I want nothing else that he has got. I wonder what he 
would feel if he knew that I didn't care twopence for all 
his books, MSS., studies or engravings. But I like his 
fine stately house. It belonged to Richardson once, 
who wrote his books in the garden-house. But I don't 
care twopence about that either! 

" I drove away with Mont)' — horribly yawny and 
stupid from so much standing and looking. He off to 

G 97 



^ 



1904] THE DIARY OF 

Cambridge. ... I slammed his finger in the hansom 
door, so he had no reason to bless me; but he had the 
best Spanish MS. to console him." 

'* Tremans^ December 31. — Now let me say a few words 
about 1904, which has been indeed a blessed and happy 
year to me. I have had lots of little worries, but the great 
strain is gone — the tension that pulled at one's heart, 
like a dog tugging at its chain, and drew the blood away, 
whenever one allowed oneself to think of it. The 
thought of the old slavery, the fussy, fretting days — the 
running hither and thither, the scramble, the weariness, 
and what made it far worse, the purposelessness of so 
much; that was what knocked the bottom out of the Eton 
life for me. To feel that for nine-tenths of one's 
furiously busy hours one was teaching boys what 
they had better not learn, and what could do them 
no good; drumming in the letter, and leaving the 
spirit to take care of itself. It is sickening to reflect 
about. 

*' Well, all that is gone. 

** I settled down at Ainger's in February last in great 
depression. I thought I could not endure to have no 
books, no papers of my own; no voice in asking guests 
or making arrangements; having to do for myself the 
hundred little details — buying stamps, shopping, etc., 
which I had left for years to my servants. But I soon 
picked it up; and the absence of all necessity for 
independence has turned out on the whole a great 
relief. 

*' Then I have been very happy in my work. I have 
come to enjoy writing more and more; I make the day 
centre upon it, and lay out the hours to guard the writing 
time. 

*' And then, too, I have made a real stride in art. I 
don't think I write better : the Myrtle Bough* was as good 
as I could do now; but I seem to have become a citizen 
and a denizen of the City of Art — the City, whose 

* A valedictory pamphlet, privately printed and circulated among his 
friends at Eton, 1903. 

98 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1904 

luminous and radiant towers I used only to see across 
the river and the plain. . . . 

" It is not perhaps the central fortress of life that 
I have found; but it is one of life's fenced cities, and it is 
a great happiness to feel that one has arrived there — it 
is like being a Fellow of a College. 

" And that takes me to my fellowship, which is a 
great happiness — though still a seed underground; yet a 
white tendril seems to be stealing upwards. I have a 
strange wistful love for Magdalene already. I long for 
her, with a kind of tender compassion. So small, so 
beautiful, so despised. 

*' Then, too, I have been very happy in seeing many of 
my old Eton friends in a serener and simpler way than 
formerly; and I have made some new friends, especially 
among the boys. But the whole year has a sort of 
aromatic fragrance for me — I don't know why — and 
this in spite of many little discomforts, and some really 
painful episodes. Indeed I seem to have been walking 
in the garden of the Lord in the cool of the day. 

'* Of course the question of the headmastership is 
a little overshadowing; but I have really not been 
overshadowed. When I begin to get anxious, I say to 
myself that after all, even if it were offered, I can't be 
compelled to take it. But if it were offered should I dare 
to refuse? Well, I have spoken out over this Greek 
question; and I daresay I have what a prudent man 
would call spoilt m^y chances. . . . 

" In the afternoon I walked soberly and gladly round 
by the Sloop and Scaynes Hill. I don't know what I 
thought about. Such a sunset — I never saw anything 
more beautiful; a very fiery rim to the sky, so that it 
burnt between the trees like a furnace; then lemon- 
coloured, and pale rich green, like a green jewel; over all 
a huge cloud like a fish, its snout in the English Channel, 
its tail over London, of pearly laminated cloud, like 
scales — an amazing sight. 

" I dipped down by the field-path as I came home, the 
path that crosses the stream and the line. I never saw 
such a sight. The hill rose steep above me, very dark; 

99 



1904] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

a few silhouetted trees looked over; above, the glowing 
sky, and the great dark, fish-like cloud, swimming south. 
The valley of the stream not less beautiful; the mystery, 
the loveliness of it all, came like a tide, floated me, so to 
speak, off my feet, and away into a region of dim desire 
and hope; joy with anguish intermixed. I wonder what 
it all means — so real, and yet so far-off. ..." 



100 



IV 

1905 

He was not offered the headmastership; and with the 
blithest of satisfaction and relief he heard the news, 
in the following March, of the appointment of Canon 
Edward Lyttelton, then Headmaster of Haileybury. 
That was the end of an unquiet time; for many of 
his friends had urged him to change his mind and 
present himself as a candidate; the Eton Governing 
Body, too, or at any rate several of its members, had 
approached and sounded him assiduously; and he on 
his side had been occupied unceasingly in declaring 
and expounding the manner of his unfitness for the 
post. Perhaps he was not the best judge of his 
unfitness, but of his unwillingness there could be no 
doubt at all; it was sincere and constant — and as 
much so as ever when the question was closed and 
the time for reconsideration was over. Then at 
last he felt safe, and he joyfully cast the long and 
harassing preoccupation from his mind. Now he 
could devote himself to Magdalene; and already he 
was fondly disposed towards his beautiful little college 
as never in all these years he had been towards Eton. 
There was a perplexing mixture in his feeling for his 
old school; he was one of Eton's untender sons, it 
must be owned, and now in his final liberation he 
grew no kinder. 

It was a singular case. With all that he was still 
to accomplish I cannot doubt that the best and most 
original of the work of his life was done at Eton, and 

lOI 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

especially in his house there; it was among the boys in 
his house, for those ten years, that all his talents, all his 
gifts of imagination and perception, were used to the 
full. To that degree they never were used elsewhere 
— certainly not in his writings, and not even, as I 
should say for various reasons, in his solid and valued 
achievement at Cambridge; nothing in all this ever 
seemed to be in the same way the work of the whole of 
himself, brought to a point. And yet, departing from 
Eton, he was able to break off his task in the middle, 
at the height of its prospering course, and not only 
never to miss it, but never to feel, apparently, that 
any real part of his life, any intimate share of his 
mind or heart, was left behind him in the school. 
He was, he remained, most unfilially detached 
in his bearing towards Eton; and his severity m.ight 
be braved, but his absence, his obstinate refusal 
to set foot in the place for many years, was a 
harder cut, and one which Eton could not feel to 
be deserved. 

So it befell, however, and for a long while he was 
seen there no more. He said that he felt that he had 
been badly used. But why? — but how? He was 
thankful to have escaped the headmastership, and his 
friends were at liberty to disagree with him on the 
" Greek question," and though argument had run 
high there was nothing but delight in his company 
and a welcome for his arrival, wherever he appeared. 
What then was the matter ? He freely, much too 
freely, explained the matter, and himself, if nobody else, 
he had soon enlightened and persuaded; and by that 
time Eton was a complication and an embarrassment 
in his thought, and it was comfortable to put it 
out of sight. And so it went, much to the puzzle- 
ment of his friends, but not much, in truth, to the 
disturbance of his own good cheer; it was not a 
grievance that grieved him long. But still, if his 
friends of Eton desired to see him they must see him 
at Cambridge, on his new ground; and this they 
readily did, as often as possible, and there was no 

102 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

break in any friendship of old times. He imposed 
his own conditions, as usual, and his days proceeded 
as before, agreeably and busily and sociably as ever, 
only with Eton exchanged for Cambridge and tor 
Magdalene. 

He took a set of rooms in college and spent the 
terms there, keeping the Old Granary for the vacation. 
His fellowship was honorary, but he was soon deep 
in the affairs of the college — giving a series of literary 
lectures, taking a set of pupils in essay-writing, and 
above all, with lively interest, with daily hospitality, 
making himself the friend of the undergraduates. 
Of his pleasure in Magdalene, of his pride in seeing 
her wax and flourish, of his sedulous and open-handed 
care for her beaut)- and honour, I will only say that the 
tale, now begun, was never interrupted until it was 
ended after twenty years by his death. Magdalene 
had the first claim on him henceforward, and except 
for two periods of illness, a shorter and a longer, he 
never missed a term in college. The rooms that he 
occupied at first were in the cloister court, on the 
ground floor of the Pepys building; and here — or in 
his house by the river in holiday-time — book after 
book was poured out in the course of this year, 1905, 
during the guarded hours between tea and dinner. 
From a College fVindow^ The Thread of Gold^ Beside 
Still Waters^ The Gate oj Deaths the volume (for the 
English Men of Letters series again) on Walter Pater 
— all were the work of these teeming months; it was a 
record of fertility that even he, I think, never surpassed. 
Moreover the correspondence of Queen Victoria 
still occupied him constantly; the selection from the 
papers at the Castle was already complete, but the 
long editorial work was only beginning, and it had 
stretched out over the next two years before he saw 
the end. 

The pages that follow will show how quickly he 
was established in his new circle; which indeed, with 
Donaldson as Master of Magdalene, with another 
friend of yet earlier schooldays, Dr. M. R. James, 

103 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

about to become Provost of King's, with his youngest 
brother, Father Hugh Benson, at this time Hving in 
Cambridge, was a circle where he could soon feel at 
home. (" Donald " and " Lady Alba " at Magdalene, 
" Monty " at King's, will be recognised without 
further formality; they are always near at hand in the 
diary, during the Cambridge term.) Of many other 
friends and acquaintances, new and old, the names 
will often be heard before long. In King's, of course, 
and also in Trinity, he was on familiar ground from 
the first; but there was no college in which he was 
not soon a well-known guest. He enjoyed the society 
of Cambridge, and he entered into it with all his 
energy; and I may dare indeed to say that he brought to 
it, and to its high appreciation, a novel and genial and 
unprofessional air that might quicken the round of any 
academic concourse. To those who know Cambridge 
it is enough to say that he was at once elected 
a member of the *' Family " dining-club; and those 
who do not may take it that the intimacy of the place 
in its most companionable mood, most traditional 
humour, was thrown open to him as soon as he 
appeared. 

But first the question of Eton and the headmaster- 
ship is to be disposed of — with a few pages, out of 
many in which the subject is talked out, from the 
diary of the earlier part of the year. There is no need 
to count the steps of the negotiations, debates, 
expostulations, that loaded the daily post between Eton 
and Magdalene; but it will be understood that as the 
crisis approached they were more and more frequent 
and urgent. The Provost of Eton, as chairman of 
the Governing Body, invited him to an interview; he 
answered that he did not think he could " form a 
ministry," and certainly would not compete. His 
old and attached friend, Cornish, the Vice-Provost, 
tried hard to move him, but in vain. 

" Magdalene, Ash Wednesday, March 8. — A memor- 
able day for me. Cornish writes to say that he deeply 

104 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

regrets the turn events have taken; which means that 
my letter to the Provost is taken as final, and that I am 
released. For which relief I humbly thank God. Indeed 
my spirits have gone up with a bound, and I feel 
like a schoolboy. I do not for one instant regret my 
action, and I am quite sure I never shall regret it. 

" What I feared, at the bottom of my heart, was that 
I should be cornered ; that the Governing Body would 
offer me the post in such a way that it would have been 
cowardly and unpatriotic to refuse. I should have 
done it with fear and trembling, knowing it was not 
really my line. . . . 

*' Well, I am honestly very glad indeed; I feel like 
the man in the psalms, whose ' soul had escaped even as 
a bird, etc' I feel as if I had recovered my liberty 
which had been menaced. Providence, I think, has 
brought me into this anxiety, in order to show me how 
dear and precious a thing Liberty is. Libertate me 
involvo ! 

" Is this a low, selfish, egotistical view.'' No, because 
I do honestly mistrust my strength, my patience, my 
capacity. I think it quite possible that I should have 
made a fiasco of it. I think that there is a sad lack of 
good candidates, and that this alone has forced me into 
prominence; but my true life is not there. 

*' Of course I feel that Eton is in rather a bad way, 
intellectually and morally. I should like to have helped 
it out. But could I have done it.-' And after all I gave 
nineteen years, my best of life, to the place. 

" It is a beautiful bright cool spring morning. Two 
big pigeons have alighted in the grass just outside my 
window, seeking their meat from God. 

" I went to the Commination service at 10 — a very 
husky affair; three men, chaplain, Master, Lady Alba, 
me. The only thing that I carried away, except the 
sense of the splendour of the great rhetorical address, 
was the verse, ' thou shalt make me to understand wis- 
dom secretly.' 

" Now I sit writing, in great thankfulness and 
contentment. I had not realised what a burden these 

105 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

anxieties had been till they were lifted from my mind, 
and I feel like Christian in the Pilgrim's Progress, when 
the burden fell off his back and rolled into a pit that lay 
in the bottom, and he saw it no more. . . . 

" I lunched with Donald and Lady Alba alone; a 
pleasant talk about the College, etc. — then a walk 
with Donald to the top of Madingley Hill. Such 
a sweet day — cold and fresh, but with a real spring 
wind. . . . 

" Came down to Coton. We talked out everything, 
Eton, the Provostship of King's, etc., etc. I was glad 
to find that my contentment only increased, now that 
these stately beckoning hands — ' Come up hither! ' — 
have withdrawn. I felt no shadow of envy, rather of 
compassion, for the man who should be called to Eton. 
It is a very strange position. . . . 

" Well, I could, to use an Eton metaphor, run in at 
the head of a rouge, well pushed by strong men; but I 
can't drag the rouge with me, if they are reluctant and 
retrograde. ..." 

Whether the metaphor from the Eton field-game 
was really to the point; whether the " rouge," by 
which he meant his friends on the staff of the school, 
was indeed so reluctant; whether, if he had come 
forward and found himself at their head, he would 
not have been well pushed home into the goal : it skills 
not at this late day to inquire. But as for the 
" beckoning hands," it may be mentioned that 
another and to him a more alluring prospect had lately 
been opened for a moment and closed again. Augustus 
Austen Leigh, Provost of King's, had died in January 
of this year, and there had been talk of Arthur Benson 
as among his possible successors. Nothing came of 
that suggestion, but it had added in passing to the 
matter of thought with which these weeks were 
filled. 

" Magdalene^ March 9. — This morning spent in 
endless letters, etc. It is hopeless work — not a 

106 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

line of my proofs. I am again being bombarded about 
Eton. 

*' I am going on quietly with my undergraduates at 
luncheon; and really I think it rather amuses me. If 
one could only take things quietly and simply, they 
would never be worse than tiresome — never agitating. 

" I am a little bored by always having them; but now 
the instinct of the collector comes to my aid, the desire to 
complete the collection, to tick them all offl What 
feeble creatures we are; but we ought to use these 
primeval instincts more. . . . 

" Then Monty and I walked to Grantchester, and 
daffed about many things. Then I contrived to write a 
passage about religion, which is very^ careful and sincere 
— but too outspoken? Then I dressed and went off to 
Trinit)', to the Lodge. What a noble house it is — such 
dignit}', amplitude and wealth of pictures and memorials. 
Mrs. Butler came and talked; then came the Master 
from chapel, very noble to look at, his pale, waxen face, 
his kind, tired eyes, his odd beard; in gown and scarf, 
cassock, decanal coat and silk stockings. We went into 
hall by an odd little staircase and came out on the dais. 
He and Aldis Wright read grace, somewhat marred by 
a crash of falling trays. . . . 

" The Master talked suavely, interestingly, con- 
tinuously. ... It is difficult to retain any impression 
of the stream of his talk. It is remarkable for its 
range, its knowledge of people, its finish, its blandness. 
He has an exaggerated idea of academical success, I 
think. . . . Then we stalked out together, ver)' fine; 
the Master and I leading the way. Another little thing 
he said amused me. ' Do you know,' he said, * Percy 
Thornton's very inferior book — dear Percy Thornton ! — 
a dear, a very dear and intimate friend of mine.' In the 
combination room he spoke very feelingly of his mistakes 
as a headmaster, principally of severity — his eyes 
filled with tears. . . . He is a very beautiful and 
striking figure, a gracious personality. I felt that I 
was with a great man, and a man of condescending 
greatness. 

T07 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

" Then we went to the Lodge, where he showed us the 
big judge's bedroom — on the ground floor, full of 
interesting pictures of judges. Then in the drawing- 
room a miniature of Byron {not very good). Then many 
other pictures: holding a candle aloft with a tremulous 
hand with white pointed fingers: Mrs. Butler and a shy 
red-faced girl with a great mop of hair — I never heard 
her name. 

" Then I went to Henry Jackson; a parliament of 
smokers. A most dismal business. The great man 
stood, like a comic mask in a wig, and read in a book, 
which he sometimes showed his neighbour with a 
screeching laugh. Ugly and perspiring men, faint with 
conviviality, stood about. Then I drifted up to Lapsley 
who paid me compliments — and then went off, after a talk 
with Cunningham, to Lapsley 's rooms, where I found 
the old set, Barnes, Laurence, Foakes-Jackson, with 
whom I have somehow got included, though they are 
not at all my sort. How odd these juxtapositions are! 
Before I knew what I was doing, I was enrolled in a 
dining-club, to have free religious discussion. Good 
God! — as if that did any good! 

" Then, finding it 12.15, ^ ^^^ howling, with Foakes- 
Jackson, whose little feet, after he left me, I heard 
pattering down the stony passage by the Round Church. 
He said that he dreaded to interview the porter. . . . 
I enjoyed the evening very much, and ate and 
drank so moderately that I had a singular lightness of 
mind." 

Of the well-known figures that peopled that evening 
at Trinity, death has since then taken away the bland 
and gracious Master, Dr. H. M. Butler — William 
Aldis Wright, the Vice-Master, sturdy and laconic — 
and Henry Jackson, with his humorous eye and his 
Socratic mask. Nor could the new dining-club, thus 
inaugurated, now be assembled in Cambridge, since 
Dr. Foakes-Jackson of Jesus migrated to New York 
and Dr. E. W. Barnes to the Temple and to Birming- 
ham. They, with the two members who still remain 

108 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

in the courts of Trinity, Mr. R. V. Laurence and 
Mr. G. T. Lapsley, though they appeared to Arthur 
Benson " not at all his sort," must quickly have been 
found to be very much of his sort indeed; for they 
were among his closest friends in Cambridge for all 
the years that ensued. 

Another fiimiliar and memorable Cambridge face, 
now vanished, is to be seen in the following extract — 
the roseate jovial petulant face of the Registrary, 
and the general friend, of the University, J. W. 
Clark. 

''April I. — I plunged early into the fray and wrote 
about thirty letters to all concerned — mostly short notes 
just to say what I was doing. The only long letter 
to Anson. ... 

** I must say that, as an omen, I had a good encounter. 
As I came out of my house, having packed off all my 
letters, I met J. W. Clark, very red in the face and sleepy- 
looking, but with the old nice smile. He said to me, ' I 
suppose I shall soon have to congratulate you on new 
honours.* I said, ' No, I have just refused to have any- 
thing to do with it.' ' Then I congratulate you with 
all my heart,' he said. ' You are a man of letters and 
not an administrator — don't forget that. . . . ' 

" Well, the spirit in which a man takes up a post 
heavily, nervously, anxiously, in a spirit of shuddering 
and sacrifice, hating all the machinery, etc., is not the 
proper spirit. I could make a sudden great sacrifice, 
I believe; but the daily self-immolation ? I could make 
it perhaps; but all the qualities in me that are worth 
anything only grow in the sunshine. I am not one 
of the people who are effective when they are 
depressed; I am only really any good when I am 
blessedly content. I know this — and this is why I have 
felt disqualified. 

" If all the staff had been with me, set on the same 
objects as myself, ready to make concessions and com- 
promises, and valuing the principle above the detail; 
if the Governing Body had summoned me cogently and 

109 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

constrainingly, I would have gone, not gladly, but willingly. 
But with a G.B. who don't know their own mind, and 
with a staff who distrust me, and with a hopeless dislike 
of the whole business of administration, how could I go? 
My work is meant to be done in a corner. 

*' I have no doubts really about this; and such as I 
had seem to melt out of my mind like clouds on a bright 
summer morning. 

** Just a little soreness remains — ' these are the 
wounds with which I have been wounded in the 
house of my friends.' I was anxious to help on the 
G.B. — I was prepared to help now; but they won't 
have me. 

" But I don't want to make myself out both as happy in 
my refusal and pathetic. V I am happy, unreasonably and 
absurdly happy. I feel, as I think I said, like a mouse 
who hears the trap snap just behind him. The pathos 
lies further away, the pathos of being somehow, in spite 
of certain gifts and powers, a failure; just not effective. 
It is the secret core of weakness, selfishness, softness in 
me coming out. But after all, it is He that hath 
made me. And one fine and beautiful lesson I have 
lately learnt, and that is the hollowness of personal 
ambition. 

** I feel as if I should like never to see Eton again, 
except in dreams. I gave her my money's worth, I 
think; but I could not go up higher." , 

His holiday inn this Easter was the King's Arms, 
Dorchester — again with Tatham. 

''Dorchester, April 18. — A mass of letters — but we 
went off early by train. Corfe Castle, sitting on a 
lonely hill, between two black downs, with a misty 
valley behind, looked astonishingly romantic and dim. I 
liked Poole harbour; but there was an old boring talking 
man in the carriage. . . . 

"We were at Wimborne by ii.o. The Minster 
interesting, but rather disappointing. It has a central 
Norman tower and a western one. But it is a low church, 

1 10 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

and the brown stone with which it is restored is ugly. 
The town very uninteresting. Found service going on 
and sate it out. Three clergy, and about 30 women! 
It seemed very false and weak and sentimental. One 
old parson read aloud in a feeble voice from the choir 
steps a very intimate and strained meditation (by Thomas 
k Kempis?) — the sort of thing one might read, in a 
morbid mood, in one's bedroom, but not fit to be publicly 
recited. Then came a hymn; the women squeaked 
feebly, but a fine strong bass sang with much feeling — 
one of the clerg)'. Then the ante-communion, long 
Gospel. The whole thing seemed to me dilettante and 
silly. One felt that the clergy had no business to be 
sitting there dressed up, feebly wishing things were 
otherwise, and bending in prayer, I daresay quite sin- 
cerely. It seemed unmanly, antiquarian. They ought 
to have been trying to mend the world, if they felt like 
that, not engaged in sleepy mooning orisons. I felt a 
hatred of all priestly persons, eating the bread of super- 
stition and sentiment. I am full of sentiment myself, 
but it ought not to be organised. 

*' Then, with two silly women, we were taken all round 
by an intolerable, stupid, deaf, vain old clerk, who could 
not understand one's questions, and repeated his 
lesson. . . . He said that there was an enlarged 
photo of himself in the town, in robes. ' I am 
known to thousands of people,' he said. Horrid old 
wretch 1 

" I remembered that it was here that Cornish wooed 
and won Mrs. C. I liked to remember that. . . . 
Y *' Then we found in a little village called Anderson 
a simply enchanting manor-house with a big farm- 
yard attached. A house of brick, with gables and oriels, 
in a wild garden, with a stream running through big 
laurels. How I should like to live there! A little 
church close by. Here we lunched, with a friendly 
spaniel who shared our sandwiches. A big black dog 
made demonstrations of displeasure; but the peace of the 
whole place, in this quiet green valley, among water- 
meadows, the old gables of the manor above the trees I 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

It is to be sold next week. One could live there very 
happily, I think. But coelum non an'imum. , . . 

*' Then we rode on, but took different turns and 
missed; but rejoined again at a big pine-clad hill-top. 
Then by Kingston, a house like Addington in a 
green park; and into Dorchester by the water-meadows, 
giving a fine view of the town. Another quite delight- 
ful day, full of the sweetest impressions of this beloved 
earth. 

" A lot more letters. A fine letter, full of sense and 
courage from Herbert Winton*, approving my decision. 
An interesting letter about books from E. Horner, 
a moan or two from the Vice-Provost. A sensible 
letter from the Master of Peterhouse about Le 
Bas prize — from Lady St. Germans, President of 
Magdalen, Willie Strutt, North S. Hamilton, and 
others — a very interesting batch. I sate down at 
once and wrote fifty, or to be accurate, 25; and did 
not dislike it. Then a peaceful dinner; and letters 
and diary." 

" Magdalene^ May 5. — I dabbled about with letters 
all morning. Young paid me a long visit, and we talked 
Eton out; but I protest before heaven I will not speak 
more of it unless I am obliged. He was very affectionate 
and blithe. . . . 

" Then I got a bike out. I had slept indifferently and 
was a little heavy. But the day was simply enchanting 
— a cool north wind, the air exquisitely clean and clear. 
. . . There is a wold, perhaps sixty feet high, above 
Swaffham; and Swaffham is just on the edge of the 
huge fen that stretches to Ely and Soham, and of which 
one bit, Wicken, is still (undrained) fen. Well, by the 
mill up there the view was gigantic and glorious: the 
long, pure lines of fen and dykes from verge to verge: 
and on the edge was Ely, in a dim, blue majesty, the 
sun shining on the leads as FitzGerald saw it from 
Newmarket heath sixty years ago ! . . . 

* Dr. Herbert Ryle, then Bishop of Winchester, afterwards Dean of West- 
minster till his death in 1925. 

I 12 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

'* Then I rode back; and by the Devil's Dyke a 
cuckoo flew beside me, moving his grey, shimmering 
wings slowly, and when he perched manoeuvring his 
ribbed tail. He seemed loath to leave me. I wonder 
what gift he will bring, false and pretty bird.'' Do I, 
like him, want others to hatch my eggs, content with 
flute-like notes of pleasure.^" 

I wrote a passage on returning: dined in hall. . . . 

"Then H.W. paid me a call: a nice boy, full of 
anxiety and good feeling: in the midst of Sturm und 
Drang^ finding what he calls his '* dearest convictions " 
failing him: very pathetic in one way, and rather sadly 
amusing in the other. His admiration of and confi- 
dence in my literary powers and oracularity of speech 
rather embarrassing. We had a long mixed vague 
talk; but I knocked a few nails in, I think. I cannot 
help feeling that if this boy finds the art of expression 
he may be a good WTiter; at least he seems to me to have 
ten times \}[\t fire I ever possessed. When I realise the 
intense vehemence and impulsiveness of a boy like this, 
his " exultations, agonies," I feel what a very mild 
person I was; I fell into depression as a young man, but 
even that I bore with angelic meekness; I never had the 
least vestige of a kick in me ! 

" He discoursed of the dons at Emmanuel, and 
opened my eyes somewhat to the light in which we 
harmless persons are regarded. If a don is crust)' and 
silent he is held to be arrogant; if he talks he is a bore. 
What the devil then is he to do.? My young friend 
smiled: ' Oh, it is in the nature of things,' he said." 

** H.W." was at this time an undergraduate at 
Emmanuel; and it may be allowable to mention 
that he has since gone so far in fulfilment of his 
friend's prediction as to write the novels of Mr. Hugh 
Walpole. 

** Monday. May 8. — A letter from Edward Lyttelton 
summoned me to town: I went up, after writing many 
letters. Found Shipley* going up to the Grouse Disease 

• Sir A. E. Shipley, F.R.S., Master of Christ's since 1910. 
H 113 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

Commission. He is amused to find that it is almost 
entirely in the hands of crack shots, responsible for the 
death of many more grouse than even the disease itself. 
It is a humorous idea, people trying to stamp out the 
disease that they may have the fun of killing the grouse 
themselves. 

** I drove to the House of Lords. I found Gosse in 
the library, and had a pleasant talk. . . . 

" Then I went to National Club. Found Edward, 
brown as a berry, full of tranquillity, good spirits and 
confidence. He unfolded to me his schemies. . . . 

" I thought that this interview might have tried my 
philosophy and fortitude; that I might find myself wish- 
ing myself in his place, with a free hand to carry out 
ideas. But I did not for a single instant. Indeed it 
was very much the other way. Again and again I said 
to myself, * Can it be that I don't really wish to have 
the carrying out of these things, and to hold this great 
position? ' And not the slightest echo of desire or 
envy or chagrin came back. That is worth something, 
I think: worth the long and wearing anxiety of the 
candidature. 

" We sate and walked up and down in the little 
garden at the back of the National Club ; it was sunny, 
and a fresh wind blew and stirred the bushes, which were 
all green. I liked Edward's candid gaze, the smile which 
broke out all over his face, his splendid laugh. He is a 
mere brown skeleton; but his hands still red and stumpy 
as of old. I felt an odd mixture of confidence in his 
strength, and entire mistrust in his judgment. We 
finished our talk looking over the little wall above the 
embankment. Sir A. Bateman passed and regarded us 
with grave surprise. Then Edward hiked off to a 
doctor in Harley Street, about his throat; and I back 
to King's Cross; and through a sunny calm evening to 
Cambridge, revolving schemes for Eton, and heartily 
glad that the burden was not on my back. ..." 

'* May 15. — I seem never to have a moment to write 
in this book now. I am really as much (or more) hustled 

114 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

as I was in old days at Eton. I struggled desperately 
with letters ; but had to go off at 1 1 . 1 5 to Pembroke Lodge 
to see the Bishop of St. Andrew's* by appointment. 
I found him at the door, pacing about in the sun: looking 
very tired; but with just the kind and wistful look of old; 
the only sign of age a certain heaviness and slowness. 
I took him to the Granary and he asked me about everyone 
and everything, looking very long at E.W.B.'s pictures, 
especially at the Vanity Fair, which he liked. Then 
to Magdalene; where he asked me about myself and my 
soul, and spoke very beautifully and simply, like a wise 
and tired child, half on the verge of tears, of walking in 
the Will of God, holding to His hand. Then I took 
him to the chapel ; and he knelt down on the step in front 
of the altar and motioned me to kneel by him. He 
prayed very tenderly and wistfully about me and my 
dear ones, alive and dead, himself, my work and his. 
And then he rose and with great dignity and simplicity 
laid his hands on my head and blessed me, with a beautiful 
form of words of which the music remains with me, 
though I cannot remember the words themselves — to be 
guided, led, helped, comforted. I drew very near to him 
in that moment; and I felt, too, a strange solemnity, a 
consecration about it, coming just at the time when I have 
refused and missed great opportunities; perhaps it was 
a kind of consecration of my life to Magdalene — who 
knows? — and yet I do not feel as if Magdalene was 
to be my home for long. But anyhow, it was just 
the peaceful patriarchal blessing I wanted and 
needed. . . . 

"And so we walked out in the sun and I tried to 
thank him, but could not; and he got into the cab 
and drove away with a smile and a wave of the hand, 
carr)'ing my love with him. His pale face, the dark 
circles under the closed eyes, the wistful, smiling, 
tearful lips, the black hair, will long live with me. . . . 
Of course I am not in line with him in the 
superficial tones of belief; but I am with him below 

• Dr. G. H. Wilkinson, formerly Bishop of Truro, died in 1907. A sketch 
of him by A.C.B. is included in The Leaves of the Tree (191 1). 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

and within, though we don't call things by the same 
names. . . . 

" Then I rode off alone, Monty having thrown me over; 
and again I had one of the most curiously beautiful 
rides of my life. I got to Milton: saw the church, in 
its green shade, with its elaborately written monuments, 
its glorious little window of Jacob, with hands like 
parsnips: then crossed the line, among the green 
pastures, so full of great thorn-thickets : and then along 
the tow-path, riding slowly down the Cam. Such a sweet 
clear, fresh day, I wound slowly along past Baitsbite 
and the Waterbeach bridge, into the heart of the fen. 
The space below the tow-path full of masses of cow- 
parsley: the river sapphire blue between the green 
banks — the huge fields running for miles to the right, 
with the long lines of dyke and lode; far away the blue 
tower of Ely, the brown roofs of Reach, and the low 
wolds of Newmarket. It was simply enchanting ! Such 
a sense of peace, and happy loneliness, and space and 
silence. I found a trench full for a mile of the sweet 
water-violet; pale lilac flowers, with a heavenly scent, on 
green slim stalks; leaves like hair: this flower an old 
friend of mine from Eton days. So I wound on and 
on, full of peace and content ; I declare that the absolutely 
flat country, golden with buttercups, and the blue 
tree-clumps far away backed by hills, and over all the 
vast sky-perspective, is the most beautiful thing of all. 

" I got to Upware; was ferried across in an old boat; 
spun before the wind to Cambridge. Then Monty 
came in to tea, very solemn and well-dressed, blue suit 
and black tie ; the Provost I How strange it all seems, 
and yet how natural; that mouth-filling word, with such 
dim and awful associations. . . . We talked away, 
and he told me how he was sent for after the first 
scrutiny and asked if he would accept. There was a 
green table set out by the choir door inside, and fellows 
in nearly all the stalls. He accepted, and they filed out 
shaking hands. He told me too how the choir-boys 
asked to see him, and did him a simple homage in their 
vestry. Very nicel 

116 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

"Then Hall with Jones; and a Concert Committee in 
Sawday's rooms. S. seems resourceful and energetic; 
then a little work; but I was tired." 

He is next seen at Tremans, where " Hugh " is of 
course his younger brother, Father Benson, and *' Beth " 
the much-loved nurse of the family, now frail and 
aged, but still incessantly active in her care of all her 
children. 

" Tremans, June 2. — It is very sweet to be here, 
though a hot soft wind this morning roars in the pines, 
and the laburnums are all dishevelled. I wrote, read, 
talked all morning. I can't find courage to attack the 
Q.V. bundle. 

" Then walked with Hugh, in sweet w^oods and lanes; 
down by the lake, by Danehurst; and back by the green 
lane that comes out by Townplace and Freshfield. He 
is a strange nature. He is entirely unworldly; hates 
cruelt)', rudeness, lack of consideration above everything. 
Yet he is himself in a way very inconsiderate. Table 
and ledge, all over this house, are heaped with books he 
has torn out of shelves and thrown down. The litter in 
the little smoking-room is fearful. Last night he would 
not leave dear Beth in peace till she had found him a 
box, and she trotted about far more than was good for 
her. He has a great charm; though I often feel that 
in my absence he thinks little of me. He has, indeed, 
all the charm, the bonhomie, the attractiveness, the 
hardness of the artistic nature. 

" I wrote away about Pater and Cuckoos. Then 
found M. at dinner, looking well and strong. We 
rather lapsed into vague scrappiness about the Mission, 
etc. Then I read a little paper which aroused some 
discussion. Then prayers, cutting short the thread, 
with a hymn which I can only call damnable; bearing 
the same relation to poetry and music that onions and 
toasted cheese do to claret and peaches; strong, coarsely 
flavoured, ugly, untrue nonsense. It is odd to me 
that the dear ladies who are so refinedly critical in 

117 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

other regions don't see that this is vulgar. I don't 
myself believe that vulgarity is a sin at all, but I 
happen to dislike it; and in this short life, that is 
enough. ..." 

" Saturday^ June 3. — They are celebrating the Fourth 
of June at Eton, and thank God I am not there in any 
capacity whatever. 

" I wrote letters all the morning, . . . Then I 
took a bicycle and rode by Chailey and Plumpton, on to 
Wivelsfield, and back by Hayward's Heath. It was a 
perfect day; and this great undulating plain, full of oak- 
woods, with the pure austere line of the downs, so dark 
and dusky, coming out at every turn over the bright and 
fretted green of the uncrumpling oak leaves, was a per- 
petual joy. The view from North Common is one of the 
most beautiful in England, I think. I pondered many 
things, not unhappily, though my thoughts had a 
melancholy tinge to-day. Life races past so swiftly; 
there is so much to see, to enjoy, to feel; such endless 
beauty, so many dear and interesting relations with others 
to experience. I feel like a man at a huge banquet, 
lamenting his slender appetite. 

" The white heads of daisies, floating on the top of 
deep meadow grass, affected me tyrannously. 

" I felt as if I could have ridden for ever in that quiet 
joy, feasting my eyes and heart on quiet beauty and grace, 
until the evening. Yes, and what then.-^ 

" Since then I have written a little at Pater, and my 
book, really finishing the latter, I think. The proofs 
arrive. Every now and then a gun is fired in a field 
near; a fierce twitter of sparrows and starlings rises in 
the ivy, and the peacock blows his harsh trumpet. . . . 

" The evening falls slowly; a warm air steals in. The 
laburnums hang heavily, and the birds sing faintly. All 
is breathlessly still. Dear old Beth comes trotting up 
with a rose which she has tied for me. Well, I have 
had another very happy day, and am grateful." 

It is impossible to consider the life of Cambridge 
twenty years ago without soon encountering the sub- 

118 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

stantial and ubiquitous figure that next appears. 
Arthur Benson long afterwards made a more finished 
portrait of Oscar Browning — it is to be found in 
Memories and Friends, of 1924 — and the same 
struggle of distaste and admiration, both alike 
reluctant, is seen in this page of the diary. 

*' The Old Granary, June 12. — Having next to no 
letters and no paper I began work immediately after 
breakfast on the Q.V. letters, and did a great batch. But 
it is too hot for comfort. . . . 

" After lunch I went off in a calm and leisurely spirit 
on a bicycle. It was a peculiar pleasure to get out of 
Cambridge, which was crammed with Whit-Monday 
folk, as well as the bevies of sisters and friends, led about 
by excited undergraduates. I don't at all wish to 
depreciate this background. It is rather pleasant when 
one is living independent and secure, to feel this gaiety' 
going on, which w^ould be unendurable if one had to 
take part in it. I rather like the perpetual swish of waves 
beneath my window^, the creaking of oars, the cheerful 
chatter of irresponsible persons; it sets the slow melody 
of my own thoughts to a cheerful descant. . . . 

'* I saw a goldfinch, and a large finch unknown to me, 
I imagine a hawfinch. Then on by Babraham, over 
the Gogs, with a splendid view, richly coloured and 
tranquil; and so home, a good ride and very happy. 

" Tea. Then wrote a fantasy for my House 0} Neville 
book. Then O.B. came to dinner. This was a severe 
trial. But I got an odd, pathetic interest out of it. He 
talked for two hours without a moment's cessation of his 
influence, the ambitions he had had, his services to edu- 
cation, his services to King's, the malignity- and jealousy 
of everyone in the world. He said that his habitual 
feeling here was that of a whipped hound, that ever\'one 
was in a conspiracy to belittle and insult him. And yet 
it was all full of fine flashes of insight, of purpose, of 
wisdom. . . . He indulged in many acute char- 
acterisations of people. He described his farewell to 
Uncle Henr}', which he said was very afl^ecting. It 

119 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

appears that O.B. talked, according to his own confes- 
sion, entirely about himself, in the same vein; his ambi- 
tions, his services, his disappointments. It never enters 
the man's head that he is in the least to blame; I won't 
say it makes me miserable, for there is a lurid interest 
about it all; but it is really the saddest thing; because 
the man is a genius, and because he has done a great 
work, in his odd, selfish way; but he is all coated and 
scaled with egotism, and covered with prickles. He 
had brought a lot of documents with him, and the even- 
ing ended by his reading to me in his fat utterance the 
testimonials he had received when he stood for a Pro- 
fessorship at Glasgow. He never said a word about 
anyone except to malign them; he never asked for an 
opinion; he did not attend to anything that I said, and 
interrupted me again and again. The only remarks 
which he listened to were those that were couched in 
flattering terms. The effect is indescribable. I felt, 
when he waddled off, as if I had been turned over and 
over in somewhat ill-smelling waves; and yet I couldn't 
help realising his force, his brilliancy and his genius. 
He set me thinking somehow; and gave one an inspira- 
tion to try and keep up an intellectual standard. He 

made one ill jest about and his wife, which is 

really incomparably humorous, but rather too broad 
to reproduce. Je my perds ! The strangeness of the 
creation of such a man, so fine, so gross, so public- 
spirited, so mean, so intellectual, so dull, so great, so 
little, is a perfect mystery. The tares and the wheat 
grow together in rich luxuriance, inextricably inter- 
twined. His ruling passion seemed to be to make 
King's a great college, and to make all the money and 
credit out of it that he could. He has done a great work 
and covered himself with discredit, and deserved dis- 
credit. He has created a school here, and he is detested. 
He has fought the battle of intellectual things, and he 
is a holy terror. He is a genius and a bore, a man of 
light and darkness; Hyperion and a satyr, Jekyll and 
Hyde. I cannot defend him and yet I admire him; I 
cannot respect him and yet I like him; I pity him with 

120 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

all my heart, and yet the one thing he does not desire 
is pity. He is half baker and half devil; and the odd 
thing is that he is not now one, now another, but both 
at once. There is no theory of God which will explain 
the existence of a man like O.B. And the result of my 
talk has been that the mystery of the Universe presses 
fiercely on my mind." 

In all these years, and until the end, Arthur Benson 
often went to stay with his cousin, Mrs. Stephen 
Marshall, at Skelwithfold, near Ambleside, and it is 
there that he is next seen. It will be remembered 
that the " little Monarch," as Duke of Albany, had 
been a boy in his house at Eton. 

*' Skelwithfold^ July 20. — I wrote a long letter to the 
Duke of Saxe-Coburg, congratulating him on his 
accession, and bidding him rule well. Odd to find 
oneself advising a little Monarch how to rule. I do 
wish him well with all my heart. . . . 

** A cloudy morning, rather close and grey. . . . The 
afternoon was most interesting. We drove through 
Ambleside, and I recognised the house where the pert 
girl was in 1870 — it was just below Belle Vue, and 
belonged to a cousin of Wordsworth's — now a training 
college. 

" We went to Fox Howe. This place was built and 
planted by Arnold, just sixty years ago; yet it has all 
the look of an old, settled, peaceful place. It is odd that 
the time required is just too long for a man to enjoy it 
himself. If he built at forty, and few people can do it 
before, he would begin to have it right at eighty. The 
house is bigger and more stately than I had thought; in 
the semi-ecclesiastical taste of the 'forties. The garden 
beautiful — it is embowered in tall trees and lawns — 
one with the oddest curved flower-bed I have ever seen; 
all this planned by Wordsworth. From the windows 
you see green water-meadows, leafy hillsides, may-trees, 
and great green mountains; but it is rather a hothouse; 
and the ceaseless cries of trippers in their char-a-bancs on 

121 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

the road hard by are horrible. Miss Arnold received 
us — a dear old lady — rich complexion, big smiling mouth, 
full of teeth, long nose, rippled hair, slight cast of eye; 
but with such a sweet, courteous manner, so that one 
hangs on the simplest words that come from her lips 
as seeming to have a flavour and a quality denied to 
others. We talked of her relations and mine — I wish I 
had a beautiful, dignified, courteous manner! It comes 
from those qualities in the mind, joined with a certain 
timbre of voice and distinctness of utterance. . . . We 
walked about the garden a little; and then drove away; I 
valued this sight of an interesting house and a gracious 
lady very deeply. 

" Then we drove on to Rydal Mount; and were 
fortunate again — Mrs. Fisher- Wordsworth at home; we 
passed by the way houses inhabited by all sorts of familiar 
names, Ouillinan, Rawnsley, Wordsworth. Rydal 
Mount is invisible from the lower road. You walk up 
past the church. It is a very tiny place — like a farm- 
house — but the gardens with trees and terraces, and the 
odd Mount of Meeting, which gives its name to the 
place, are all impressive. I remembered seeing it in 
'70 — the slate steps leading up to the front of the house, 
through rhododendrons, recalled it. Papa gave me a 
Wordsworth, bought at Lincoln Station, in honour of 
the visit. 

" The rooms tiny — and a fearful smell of dry-rot — 
but deeply moving and interesting. Portraits and busts 
everywhere — such as Haydon's. But it must have 
looked very different in the Poet's time — much newer, 
much more raw; he was making the garden then, and 
adding to the house — and of course much simpler in 
furniture, etc. The garden struck me greatly — the view 
of Windermere, the beautiful fall of the ground, the 
trees, the almost tropical luxuriance of everything. I 
felt a good deal of emotion about the whole thing — much 
more than at Fox Howe. The stiff, self-absorbed, common- 
place-looking man (Wordsworth, I mean) was, after all, 
a high priest of mysteries — and the house stands for much 
high and beautiful joy. He lived here thirty-five years. 

122 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

" They are terribly harried by trippers. But Mrs. 
F.W., rather a pretty woman, showed us everything, 
the chests, the little old parlour, etc., with great zest. I 
wish I could copy the dignity of Wordsworth, in 
refusing to do anything but what he loved. I will 
aim at that. 

*' The lines of Milton kept running in my head as 
we walked about, with a deep thrill: 

On this mount he appeared; under this tree 

Stood visible; among these pines his voice 

I heard; here with him at this fountain talked. 

P.L., xi, 320. 

The two places together filled me with interest. School- 
mastering and poetry 1 To see the abodes of two of the 
prophets, masters in these two arts, both of which I 
have practised, and in both of which I have meekly and 
humbly failed, was a kind of humiliating inspiration. 
After this I decided to walk over the Fell. Not a breath 
stirring, and a close, unutterable heat. I went slowly 
up among the ferns, dripping, buzzed about by flies; 
but with fine backward glances at Nab Scar and the dark 
lake below. As I rose, the great mountains rose to look 
at me, behind the nearer hills. ..." 

" TremanSy August 16. — I read Wm. Johnson's journal 
in bed — his views of chivalry, etc. — and felt truly 
ashamed of my paltry, weak, trivial, sentimental, ignorant 
mind. I know nothing, am miserably biased — but it 
is of no use bemoaning it; I remember what interests 
me. I expect I read as many books as he did! It is 
like music; no amount oi study of it reveals the inner soul, 
the appreciation which a child may have, to the un- 
musical. W.J. writes in one of his letters respectfully, 
yet incredulously, about music to A. Coleridge. Melodies 
aflfected W.J. — he tied on to them something of the 
romance and melancholy of the world; but he didn't 
really believe that a change of key could affect people 
as they said it did. Yet even to me, with my paltry 
musical gift, a change of key is like magic. 

123 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

" Well, one must go on and do the best one can with 
one's powers. ... I lunched off cold fragments — very 
nice. Took a train to Hayward's Heath, and then by 
Burgess Hill right out to the west. ... I found at last 
such a pretty out-of-the-world place, Twineham, with a 
little brick Jacobean church, at the end of a lane — small, 
dark and comfortable; an old Italian picture (a bad copy, 
I expect), of a holy family, which might have some 
appeal to imagination, poked away over the chancel 
arch, without misgivings, in order to make room for 
Mr. Kempe at his worst. A sly, ferret-faced angel, 
incredibly involved in raiment, as though the celestial 
temperature were arctic, making his announcement to a 
Virgin, who looks as if she were being photographed, 
very demure. The colours inoffensive, but a poor 
work of art. 

" From the pretty little lonely churchyard, over a 
wheatfield, the outline of the down rose and fell, like a 
green and shadowy wave. A school feast at the vicarage. 
I read epitaphs, and sate long on the broad, low slab of 
a grave, wondering who and what my host, that lay 
below, had been. It was very sweet in that little 
secluded churchyard, and for once I had no sense of 
hurry. Twineham Place, an old farm-house, held up 
its timbered gables and rusty chimneys very pleasantly 
over a grove of oaks. . . . 

" What an odd thing one's mind is. I have no great 
desire to be loved by other people; yet I should like to 
think that in the days to come, when I am gone, some- 
one should care to retrace my rambles, and even wish 
me back. ..." 

''August 17. — Letters and business all morning. I 
forgot to say that on my return yesterday I visited 
Cuckfield church, which is rich and dim, like a cathedral, 
full of villainous, yet joyful, glass. It has an incompar- 
able view from the churchyard; yet I suppose that man 
can't live on views alone. 

" I spent rather a feeble morning; a hot, damp south- 
west wind was blowing, and the mind was unstrung. I 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

went out bicycling, and worked down against the wind 
to Burgess Hill, returning to Wivelsfield, and I saw many 
beautiful vignettes; a deserted byre, with a big stone- 
tiled barn, doors open, and a water-wagtail, with head on 
one side, looked curiously in to the raftered dark; a 
little timbered, ancient house, the front walls all scored 
with pale half-circles, where the roses swung to and 
fro; a deep, silent lane, overhung with close hazels, up 
which I went in gratified silence. ... It has been a 
happy day, at least a contented one, in spite of a few 
sombre shadows which lie in the background of the 
mind, like big clouds, and from which a few scattered 
rain-drops seem at times to fall. 

" What odd tricks the mind plays. At Stanmore I 
saw in the church the grave of some good woman, who 
died on August 17, aged fort}'-three. I was seized with 
a mild presentiment that August 17 would bring me 
some fateful crisis. But it has passed without event, 
and I am still here, though yesterday the thought was 
about me all day, not sadly, but with a grave 
solemnit)\ 

" I reflect that since I have left Eton, in addition to 
all my work on the Queen's Letters, I have written the 
following books: 



Cambridge Revisited (not published). 
FitzGerald (62,000 words). 
Upton Letters (80,000). 
College IVindozv (40,000). 
Pater (60,000). 
Leonard* (60,000). 

My poetry lectures — quite a book (50,000). 
The Thread oj Gold (80,000). 
Enough essays and articles to form a small 
volume by themselves (40,000). 
10. I have published a volume of poems. 



It is a long list; yet I am not at all a hard worker — only 
a very regular one. . . . 

* Afterwards called Beside Still WaUrs. 
125 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

" I don't quote this for the sake of credit; no one can 
be more aware than I am of indolence and laziness; 
but I quote it to defend my manner of working — to show 
that even an indolent person who cares about his work, 
can produce a very fair amount of moderate work in a 
short time. The point is to care." 

" Magdalene, October i. — To King's Chapel — met the 
Bakers — Monty went in in state — I did not care for the 
service, somehow, no unction. Came out and saw 
several friends — Sir R. Ball, Lady Albinia, Vice-Provost, 
etc. Monty carried me off to his rooms, but found 
them sported, and I regret to say stamped and positively 

swore. * D n 1 ' he said, standing there in surplice 

and Doctor's hood. This was picturesque. We went 
up the back way. He told me he returned with bewil- 
derment and shrinking to his new work. So does the 
Dean of Christchurch, from whom I heard to-day — * my 
usual bewilderment at the beginning of a new academical 
year.' 

" We were going to have had a talk, when J. W. 
Clark came in, looking very well; and discoursed about 
himself, his foreign tours, his library schemes, his books, 
his articles, for nearly an hour — expressing the most 
unbounded and acrid contempt for everyone else in the 
world. . . . 

" He walked away with me, and told me more 
of his plans — the restaurant system for College 
Halls, full of sense; and one can't help loving J., 
though he does despise the human race, for his 
own geniality and affection, which are entirely 
sincere. . . . 

" Then back and wrote. I had noticed in King's 
in the morning a fine-looking boy, evidently a fresh- 
man, just in front of me — lo and behold the same 
came to call on me, and turns out to be Mallory, 
from Winchester, one of our new exhibitioners at 
Magdalene. He sate some time; and a simpler, more 
ingenuous, more unaffected, more genuinely interested 
boy, I never saw. He is to be under me, and 1 

126 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

rejoice in the thought. He seemed full of admiration 
for all good things, and yet with no touch of 
priggishness. 

" I wrote feverishly after that — dined alone — wrote 
again. ..." 

Of all the friends that he ever found among the 
undergraduates of his college, none was nearer or 
dearer to him than George Mallory. For both of 
them there was much reward in this alliance, which 
lasted until Mallor^-'s death upon Mount Everest in 
1924. 

^'November 11. — Slept rather ill — wonderfully 
elaborate dreams; Papa showing me a MS. book of his 
early poems, written in shorthand. On the bottom of one 
was written, in his father's hand, ' A similarly approving 
opinion of the advantages of conjugal love was expressed 
by the late Mr. W. Cobden.' The words ' W. Cobden ' 
were impressed on the page with a kind of stamp, an oval 
line round them. The old, rather yellow pages, with 
the blue ink in which the poems were written, the 
blunt capitals of the stamp — I can see this all now with 
absolute fidelity. The human mind is a very odd 
thing. . . . 

" Then to my dining-club — Foakes- Jackson, Barnes, 
Lapsley, Laurence; the guests, Adam Sedgwick, the 
Vice-Chancellor,* Wedd. I sate between \Vedd and 
Lapsley, opposite the V.C, who was in high good- 
humour. His big, queer, ruddy face, all puckered and 
creased with geniality, his stiff mop of hair, his slight 
stammer, give him a cachet. ... I can't reproduce his 
sallies. Their humour depends upon their sense of zest, 
combined with a certain quaintness of expression, and 
a very infectious laugh — together with a sense of personal 
kindness and interest. One can't help liking the man 
and respecting him, and though he is in a way undigni- 
fied, he has the dignity of vigour and good sense and 
real simplicity. 

♦ A, E. Beck, Master of Trinity Hall. 
127 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

" The dinner was excellent — a little too good. The 
wine extravagantly so — an old Marcobrunner, a '93 
champagne, and a Leoville '70 claret afterwards; also 
audit. I thought that everyone drank a great deal too 
much (except myself, of course — but that is taste, not 
principle); after dinner the decanters went round and 
round, and people drank both port and claret freely. I 
put a spoonful of claret in my glass and sipped it for the 
sake of geniality! . . . 

*' Afterwards things were not so merry. We smoked 
in a little slip of a room, in which people could not 
circulate or gather in groups. I got stuck on a sofa with 
Sedgwick,* and enjoyed the talk of this positive, brusque, 
pleasant scientist, interlarded with oaths. He has a 
curious admiration for literature, and talked books hard 
— with a half-regretful air, as a man might talk about 
vintages, without being able to tell them apart. I grew 
weary, not of him, but of myself. I did not want to sit 
in one place, boring one man to death; why can't there 
be more ease and simplicity about these things.'' Mean- 
while a group scintillated at the fire, talked and laughed 
shrilly. How well I know that kind of false convivial 
excitement, which is not even pleasant. At midnight 
the V.C. rose, and crept downstairs, and so we parted. 
Let me note that the funny little yellow coach or sedan, 
which draws a lady from the great gate to the Master's 
Lodge, was standing out, there being a party at the 
Lodge. No one knows where it is kept. It must be 
quite an ancient relic. Finally to bed late, and 
dreamt horrible and elaborate dreams. So much for 
conviviality — an overrated thing. . . . " 

" Sunday, December 10. — I was much grieved last 
night to hear of Jebb'sf death. He had a great attrac- 
tion for me — both the thought of his delicate and 
beautiful mind, as well as of the secluded scholarly 
character of the man. Of late, it seemed as if I had 

* Adam Sedgwick, afterwards Professor of Zoology at Cambridge, died 
in 1913. 

I Sir Richard C. Jebb, Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge since 1889. 

128 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

come nearer to him. He was always very cordial when 
we met. The last time I saw him was at the Board of 
Education, when he sate opposite me, and slept all the 
afternoon — he was obviously unwell. 

*' His wide blue eye, his veined and almost scarred 
face, thin whiskers, much brushed up hair and great 
stoop, gave him an odd distinguished look — half 
common, half refined. His sonorous, clear, poetical, 
resonant voice, always very beautiful. It was strange 
to see him oar himself along with his hand, as with a 
paddle, beating the air. 

" He used to speak warmly of my English st)'le. I 
felt somehow that he liked me. . . . 

" Gosse in good spirits — we went to King's Chapel 
together and sate in the antechapel. The service very 
sweet: Hark! a thrilling^ etc., made me want to be up and 
doing, though not necessarily on clerical lines. 

" Then I talked to W.D., etc., in the court; wrote; 
lunched; walked with Gosse round Coton. A sunset of 
quite extraordinary beauty — the leafless trees, seen over 
bare fields, the hamlet roofs, the world beyond, and the 
sun sinking orange into smoky wisps of cloud, which he 
seemed to draw with him. We watched the crimson orb 
slip behind the hill. Horace Darwin and his daughter 
watched it too. 

" We talked of many things. . . . He told me of a 
little autobiographical book he meant to write — his early 
days with his calvinistic father — the contest of paganism 
with rigid faith. . . . He seemed glad to be here, and to 
feel better after his quiet day." 

" The Old Granary^ December 16. — Such a beautiful 
day of calm, golden, chilly sun; everything sparkling and 
subdued, too. Letters and business in much mass all 
morning. A welcome letter from Esher to say that 
the King will now be able to look at proofs, etc., now 
that the crisis is over. A nice letter from the new 
Postmaster-General. . . . 

" In the afternoon Monty came for me just as I was 
going to bike — so we walked together by Coe Fen, the 

1 129 



1905] THE DIARY OF 

avenue, and out to Cherry Hinton. We went into the 
church, and looked at the delightful monument to a 
young Serocold, with the extract from Lord Hood's 
despatch, which begins, * I have to regret, and which I 
do most sincerely,' etc. We also admired the beautiful 
Early English chancel, so light and clean and ascetic in 
air, with its slender shafts and rich mouldings. Monty, 
this great academical dignitary, in loose grey suit, white 
Homburg hat, small, ill-tied shoes, shuffling along 
merrily, pleased me. We rambled along inconsequently 
in talk as we are wont to do — always quite delightful. 
He is one of the few people to whom I can and do say 
exactly what I think and as I think it. He never 
misunderstands, is always amused, always appreciative. 
And yet I can't recollect what we talked about. We 
came back by an abandoned road by the huge cement 
works, which contrived to look sombre and solemn in the 
gathering dusk, with their huge chimneys belching 
smoke, their powdered roofs, their odd retorts and 
towers: the lights beginning to be lighted within, and 
giant shapes of moving beams and rods to move shadowily 
before the windows. It is all very well to think these 
huge places unromantic and ugly, but what would a 
mediaeval knight have said if he had seen one at the end 
of a forest avenue.? We came back in the dark by a 
long lighted road, the shops wearing a Christmas air. 
Then by Parker's Piece, the R.C. Cathedral standing 
up very beautiful over dark houses against a sunset 
sky. Then to a book-shop where he bought books — 
and so back to tea. Then I worked hard, a review of 
In Memoriam with Tennyson's own notes, a series of 
gruff growls and snorts of disdain — and other pieces. 
. . . Then dined alone; afterwards reading and writing 
till late. I like these solitary evenings now, and need 
no companion. I am reading the life of William 
Morris again. The frank and beautiful youth, so 
unconscious, so vivid, of these interesting creatures — 
he, Burne-Jones, Dixon, C. Price and the rest — pleases 
me by its fragrance and affection. And I regard it, too, 
as one of the best written biographies of the century, 

130 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1905 

if not of all English biographies. It is so perfectly 
balanced and proportioned — so just, so beautiful. But 
it makes one sad, too, to think that all these lives have 
faded into dust! If I could but get hold of a belief 
that would bring the death of sweet things into line 
with hope, what a difference would be there! I slept 
very ill, and read W.M. in the quiet hours between 
3.0 and 5.0, the weir rushing outside, the night still 
and cold." 



131 



1906 

It became clear that to spend the term at Magdalene 
and the vacation half a mile away, at the Old Granary, 
was not a good arrangement of the months; and the 
Old Granary too fell out of favour when the quiet 
mill-pool was invaded by all the holiday-makers 
of the summer. A smaller excuse would have been 
enough for the pleasure of changing houses. And so, 
in the Easter vacation of 1906, he is found established 
at the village of Haddenham, a few miles from Ely, 
in a house called Hinton Hall, surveying the wide 
green levels of the fen which he loved so well. As 
for the house itself, it appeared, as he said, to have 
been ordered and sent down ready-made from the 
stores — a hard-featured little villa, destitute of every 
grace; but it took his capricious fancy, and the silent 
waters and solitary pastures that surrounded it were all 
that the philosophic recluse of the House of Quiet 
could desire. He did not, in point of fact, desire 
them for long, and his solitude was nearly always 
shared with a friend ; but he spent some weeks of the 
summer there very happily, writing and bicycling 
at the top of his vigour, devouring the countryside in 
long afternoons of exploration, racing home at the 
appointed hour to his chapter on the blessing of 
tranquillity, the curse of restlessness. His friends were 
not slow to admire how sociably he cultivated seclusion, 
how energetically he commended repose; and he 
laughed where he could not gainsay them — the 

132 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

placidity of his books was less than ever the reflection 
of his life. 

His friends might laugh, but they could also feel 
uneasy; for signs were not wanting that he over- 
taxed his strength. Apart from his work at 
Magdalene he was now perpetually dashing off for a 
day of business in London. He was a member of 
various educational committees, he was president of the 
Modern Languages Association, he was an examiner 
of naval candidates at the Admiralty; and what with 
lectures and pupils at Cambridge, and a daily corres- 
pondence inordinately swollen by the popularity of 
his books, the weeks of the term were as much of a 
scramble and a hustle by this time as ever they had 
been at Eton. He could not be temperate in occupa- 
tion; and the strain upon his nerves began to be 
manifest even to himself when at length he found his 
fluency checked, his writing impeded, by difficulties 
that could only be a symptom of ill-health, for he 
knew no others. More serious, as might seem to 
those about him, was a sensibility of temper that 
was vexed increasingly by small things, slight causes 
of offence — a controversial mood that grew upon 
him; many pages of his diary in these months are 
filled with a record of irritation that was ominous, 
it is easy to see now, of trouble to come. By the end 
of the year he was already suffering from attacks 
of depression and listlessness that were a torment 
to a man of his vitality. If he could not at every 
moment be working, stirring, active in some way, 
the world lost all its savour, his spirit dropped in 
perplexity. 

Most of the year, however, was fortunate enough. 
The three volumes of the Queen's correspondence 
were at last settling into shape; two or three books (of 
which only one was published, The Altar Fire) were 
written as enjoyably as usual; and a series of discursive 
articles for a weekly journal, the Church Family News- 
paper^ was started with such zeal that he was soon 
ahead with his contributions by several months. 

^22 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

And now he had definitely taken his place as an author 
high in the favour of a large audience — whose homage 
began to reach him in many forms, all gratifying, 
not all equally convenient. There was no fault to 
find with the form that magnified his income; this 
remained at a handsome height in all his working 
years henceforward. But his attached public was 
not content with buying his books in big editions; 
it also wrote to him — wrote in the warmth of its 
heart from all over the world, and never wrote without 
receiving a punctual, pleasant answer that encouraged 
it at once to write again. His legion of readers 
added their weight to a burden already severe. His 
courtesy was inexorable; he had to reply to every 
letter that ever reached him, and again to every letter 
that replied to his. And so the snowball rolled 
up, and the daily post became by far the most 
formidable part of his work. 

As for his public and its tribute of devotion, he 
was always in two minds about it. Nobody could 
dislike to learn that his books were welcomed and 
treasured in all quarters of the globe; and nobody 
could find himself so endeared to a host of strangers 
without being touched and pleased. To his far- 
scattered correspondents, so long as they were content 
to know him by letter only, he was infinitely generous 
of his attention; and some of them, always on the same 
condition, became real friends. But his ironic sense, 
and his critical, were both too lively for complacency. 
Much as he loved his books in the writing, he looked 
at them with no indulgence on the shelf; and while 
he thanked his kindly readers, he appraised them, 
it must be said, with the frankest impartiality. He 
might feel supported at times by the chorus of their 
voices, but he was also embarrassed; above all he 
did not wish it overheard by his friends. He made 
many attempts to evade it by anonymity, once or 
twice so successfully that to this day there are books 
of his, shyly facing the public, which I believe have 
never been brought home to him. But in general 

134 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

the secret was out before anyone was mystified; and 
from now onwards, do what he might, he remained — 
at a long arm's length — the master, the confidant, 
the confessor of an oddly assorted flock. We used 
to think with pleasure that not a few of these votaries, 
if they had had the fortune to see and hear him face 
to face in an unguarded hour, would have been shocked 
indeed. 

''Magdalene^ February 8, 1906. — After Hall I looked 
over the Prize Poems for the Chancellor's English Medal 
— ten in all. Two were good^ one in blank verse the 
best, I think — but one in pretty triplets, decidedly 
poetical. Another had some fine stanzas: ' The cheer- 
less-whirling wheel ' struck me as a Tennysonian touch 
of high merit. The rest worthless." 

*' Friday^ February 9. — A disgusting morning of 
letters — I wrote about 30. . . . Then 1 had a great 
pleasure — it was bitterly cold, but I bicycled alone, on 
frozen roads, out to Boxworth by Huntingdon Road. 
I had not realised how thirsty I was becoming for the 
country. Never did a sun-baked man drain a cup of 
well-water more greedily than I took in the impression 
of the fields wrinkled with cold, the low hills, the black 
pinfold-lighted tower of Lolworth, the partridges calling 
in the grass, the broad misty fen. I came back the same 
way; and then by invitation to tea with the charming 
Mallory, in his rooms in the corner of the court, over the 
road. We talked like old friends, mostly of moun- 
taineering, and I was pleased at my entertainment. 
Then worked hard at various things. To Hall, which was 
cheerful and pleasant; and then I had to rush to St. 
John's to read a paper before the Theological Society. 
It met in rooms in the top of the furthermost corner of 
the New Court. I had never been here before. The 
stone corridors and iron-railed staircases are horrible — 
but the rooms have a certain dignity and st)^ie. In a 
long room, with green Gothic doorways, quite small, 
I found more men assembled than I could have believed 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

could have got in — forty, I should think. We began 
with prayer, very solemn. Then I read my elaborate and 
inappropriate paper on Personality in Art, sitting in a 
low chair in the corner with a glaring lamp. Then a few 
questions were asked, and I discoursed fluently but not 
well about Ruskin, Carlyle, etc., etc. Then it was 
brought to an end, coffee came in, and a group of very 
nice boys came round and asked me all sorts of questions. 
I only wish I did not feel so big and stupid, and so little 
like the celebrity they seem to regard me as. One, whose 
questions had struck me, with a very odd crop of black 
tangled hair, strangely parted, was most attentive; and 
finally walked with me to the gate, discoursing softly.* 

" The great tower looked very fine in the moonlight, 
as we passed through the great splendid courts. . . . 

" I liked my young friend — asked him to lunch; 
came back, smoked, worked fitfully at trifles, and eventu- 
ally to bed, though dreading my cold room; and dreamed 
horribly — a confused dream of being back at Eton as a 
boy, of swinging by a rope from the ceiling of a great 
hall, my aim being to swing myself into a balcony at the 
side. . . . 

" I forgot to say that on Thursday afternoon, about 
2.0, one of the strangest storms I have ever seen came on. 
The air became dim and black — there were furious 
flashes of a sort of purple lightning, heavy peals of 
thunder, and then a furious shower of hail, so that the 
garden was whitened with it. 

" They have not only felled the pretty alder, but 
pruned the plane, so that the houses of the Chesterton 
Road look in as by a window into the garden. It is 
rather pathetic that my original offer of trees to the 
College was just to fill this ugly increasing gap; and now, 
as long as I hold my fellowship, the scar will gape, and 
show the brick and slated houses through. The little 
slated turret which I see hurts my mind as often as I 
think of it. 

" The garden is now full of mounds of earth, pits, 
trees and branches piled in heaps, tree-roots, ladders, 

* He is to be recognised as Mr. J. C. Squire. 

136 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

etc. Such a routing it has not had for a hundred years. 
I suppose it is right, but it is sad at the time, somehow. 
The very thing I want to do with the public schools! 
" In rather a sad and fretted hour before the 
dawn to-day the following came into my head, I 
don't know why — I seem to have taken leave of 
poetry.* 

" 'Tis my delight to weave bright words; 
Sweet words, soft pauses to discover; 
To sing, as sing shy musing birds, 
Over and over. 

Fly high, fly low, bright words and sweet, 

So ye fly hence, I care not whither. 

Where stream and field and sunset meet. 

Fly thither, thither. 

I am one with all sweet days that fade, 

When night her solemn heart discloses; 
I am laid where dying summer is laid 
Among the roses. 

Ah, shrill and sweet the bright words rise, 

Like burdened bees from flowers that hid them; 
Bid them be silent, O ye wise ! 
I dare not bid them." 

" Magdalene^ February 19. — Woke early, much vexed 
at having to go away again. No letters! . . . Went 
pleasantly through to town, through a rain-soaked land- 
scape, much flood-water out. Sent my things to club; 
and then off to Paddington and ran down the familiar 
line. We were soon at Slough ; and then the well-known 
scene, which I have not seen for a year, began to unfold 
itself; Eton, in its rain-splashed meadows, under a 
bleared and hurrying sky, with a hoarse, muddy river 
plucking at the osiers; every window and chimney and 
tree and hedgerow known to me like my own body — 
and yet there was I, looking out upon it absolutely 
without emotion; rather pleased to know it all so well, 
as a bird might fly over well-known fields, but neither 
desiring to be back, nor regretting the past, nor wishing 

* This lyric was included by the author in Selected Poems, 1924. 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

anything otherwise — with no feeling of tenderness or 
sorrow, only glad to be out of it all. It was rather 
degrading and discreditable; but still it is absolutely true. 
Then I got to the Castle, was greeted smilingly by the 
familiar police and flunkies; found Childers upstairs, 
everything all exactly the same — the rooms very com- 
fortable, and Miss Williams working away next door. 
We did a lot of work, went right through all the strong- 
room papers, looked at everything, and I went through a 
whole batch of typewritten papers which had not been 
gone through before. Then we lunched and worked 
away quietly; then caught 4.25. The Dean in the 
train. 

** The panorama rolled past me again, with the same 
insensibility on my part. Then up to London; and I 
had a little talk with the Dean; drove off with Childers 
and left him in Trafalgar Square. Then to the National 
Club — read and wrote; and then found Gosse, tired and 
excited, from a long day at House of Lords. He told 
me that he had been praising my educational views to 
Haldane. P. Lubbock to dine. . . . 

*' Then we went and talked to Gosse in the smoking- 
room; he was very brilliant and full of finished, amusing, 
polished reminiscences of his father and the Plymouth 
Brethren. Then Gosse fled; and Percy and I had some 
more talk. . . . 

" I read over what I have written about Eton — 
perhaps I ought not even to put it down — ' Cast no least 
thing thou lovedst once away '* — but I don't put it down 
as to my credit, only record it as a fact that I don't, and 
cannot, in thinking it over, feel the least emotion about 
the place. I am simply glad my time there is over; and 
I saw it as a man might see the galley where he had 
rowed.'* 

He managed so to arrange his work on the Queen's 
letters that his presence was not again required at 
Windsor; and this was to be his nearest sight of Eton 
for ten years to come. 

* William Morris. 

138 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

" Sunday^ February 25. — Sleepy and stupid. I 
preached in chapel; but the boat* had gone to 
Hunstanton, so the congregation was very small. But 
I had a pleasure, for Rogers came in to my rooms after- 
wards, to thank me for my sermon. He is an interesting 
boy. . . . Then I went for a walk with P.L. We found 
Warre in the garden, in high spirits, trampling among 
the flower-beds. . . . Then P.L. and I walked on, and 
had a long talk about relations with other people — very 
interesting. I have a sort of feeling, in discussing this 
subject with him, that he has a kind of secret, hidden 
from me, a secret which others share, in the matter. 
Then comes an outbreak like Howard's about my 
coldness, and I feel it more than ever. I asked him to 
explain what he felt. . , . While he talked I half 
understood, but with that half-comprehension which one 
feels will slip away from the mind. To me relations with 
others are in no sense unique; they are only one of many 
relations, with waves and winds, trees and sunsets. 
Then I am cursed or blessed with an ease of speech, 
and give my intimacy easily, because, I suppose, it is 
not sacred for me. Relations are not holy or solemn or 
awe-inspiring for me — only pleasant or unpleasant; and 
my tendency is to welcome in a congenial person very 
affably, and to make the best of an uncongenial. But to 
P.L. and his school, this is a kind of emotional harlotry, 
I think. It was a deeply interesting conversation, 
but left me aware that friendships, etc., were for P.L. 
a series of deep thrills — exultations and agonies — while 
for me they are only like flying sunlight on a bright 
morning. 

" But then I have a peculiar and fastidious horror of 
my kind — I have often to leave the pavement of a 
crowded street and to walk in the road from a horror of 
breathing twice-breathed air. . . . 

" I sate next to Warre, and I became gradually aware 
that the awkwardness and coldness of the previous day 
was only pure embarrassment. He talked freely, kindly, 
pleasantly — and as the evening went on, got more and 

• The crew, that is, of the college boat, in traioing for the Lent races. 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

more jovial, telling masses of very ancient stories. He 
begged me to come to Finchampstead. What an odd 
thing the man's prodigal greatness of temperament is. 
He is neither eloquent, nor humorous, nor convincing. 
He is an essentially dull man in mind. But he is a great 
commander. We all floated, like little boats, on the 
tide of his strength, deferred to him, tried to please 
him, were grateful for his notice. The Professor, so 
intolerant of most men, sate forcing loud and harsh 
laughter over jokes which he neither heard nor 
understood. We luxuriated in Warre's geniality as in 
a glowing fire. ..." 

Whether P.L. indeed committed himself so deeply 
in the afternoon's talk can never now be known; but 
the evening in the college combination-room, with 
Warre expansive in ease and freedom, is very clear in 
memory. So is also the sight of that fine old English 
gentleman, " the Professor," infirm but indomitable, 
rosily convivial, the sturdiest and most uncompromis- 
ing of the pillars of the college: Alfred Newton, 
Professor of Zoology and Fellow of Magdalene from 
1866, until his death in 1907. 

" London^ June 23. — ... I drove off to Athenaeum. 
Wrote letters, and went to see the Blake exhibition. 
Surely people must be cracked who make such a 
fuss about Blake's little funny drawings. There is 
some imagination in them and much quaintness. But 
the absurd old men with beards like ferns or carrots — 
the strange glooms and flames and tornadoes of vapour, 
the odd, conventional faces, the muscular backs, the 
attenuated thighs! Blake was a childish spirit who 
loved his art, and had a curious naive use of both word 
and line and colour; and some fine simple thoughts 
about art and life. But he was certainly not * all there ' 
— and to make him out as a kind of supreme painter and 
poet is simply ridiculous 1 

"... I then went to the Academy. I enjoyed a good 
many pictures, the landscapes mostly. The place was 

140 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

not too full ; the portraits not so badly painted as of such 
surprisingly horrible people . . . but the landscapes 
were the best — the boiling over on to level sands in 
a sunset vapour of great pale sea-waves — a dark fen- 
like place of water and rushes with a gale blowing, 
etc., etc. 

'* Then I lunched; and went to the National Gallery, 
where I revelled so long among the British landscapes 
— such men as Glover and Nasmyth, such pictures as 
Mousehold Heath (I don't like Constable!) — that when 
I got to the Tuscan pictures I could only feel them absurd. 
But of course all these things are only symbols of inner 
raptures. 

" I saw the new Velasquez. A stupid vulgar 
picture; and I am entirely unable to believe it is by 
Velasquez. 

" Back to Athenaeum. Tea, read National Review^ 
and found a disagreeable attack on me, as a critic of 
Eton, by X., the brilliant Eton boy — rather a friend of 
mine. 

" I don't like this — but it is useless to moan and think 
other people prejudiced. I have said what I thought 
about Eton very frankly, and I have somehow jarred on 
these enthusiastic Etonians. But it is very odd to find 
him say that I want to turn all boys into dilettantes — 
when I think that is the very danger of the classical 
system — which produces, I think, a few dilettantes and 
a lot of ignoramuses. ..." 

" Hinton^ July 7. — This morning I am all right 
and very cheerful. Let me hope it was the thunder 
which upset me — in any case it was very tvy'mg. The 
heat is terrific. Letters and business most of the 
morning. 

" The great veronicas are in full bloom in the garden, 
haunted by innumerable butterflies — such a pretty sight; 
I shall always, I think, connect them with my first 
memories of this place. Another very characteristic 
sound here is the song of the yellow-hammer, which has 
become very familiar to me; some sharp, sweet notes, 

141 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

followed by an almost harsh, prolonged in-drawn note, 
lower than the prelude. 

** I went off in a south-west wind to Ely, and then on 
by the most level roads to Prickwillow, a hideous God- 
forsaken village in the flat — then on by Shippea Hill, 
a little old fen-island, to the station called Burnt Fen once 
(now Shippea Hill). It was all very tranquil and pretty 
— the little black-boarded cottages and ancient pumping- 
mills, with rich gardens, were highly characteristic. 
I enjoyed myself mildly; train to Ely, where the 
dignified stationmaster touched his hat and greeted 
me warmly for the first time, having seen me, I suppose, 
with Pell, and believing me to be a worshipful man. 
Then slowly back; then I wrote a little study, " In 
the Fens," for the Atlantic Monthly. I pleased 
myself over this; it was pretty, I thought, and well 
proportioned. 

" It is calm, still, and hot; I sit writing by the open 
window, the birds singing softly, while I wait for George 
Lyttelton. Being in rather a melancholy mood, I have 
thought much and sadly about Eton to-day. Not that 
I wish to have acted differently in any sense ; I would do 
exactly the same if I had it all to do again. But I have 
got somehow into unhappy cross-purposes with what I 
discern to be a beloved place, a sort of mother to me. 
... I should like to sit on one of the towers and survey 
it all. None the less am I thankful, deeply thankful, 
to have done with it all ; in fact my mind is a curious blur 
of mingled moods about it. . . . 

" George arrived at 7.45, very big and robust and 
smiling and serene — and we had a pleasant quiet evening, 
though he surprised me by flying so early to bed. I 
went much later, and had a terrible dream of the hang- 
ing of some person nearly related to me at Eton; the 
scaffold, draped with black, stood in Brewer's Yard; and 
I can't describe the speechless horror with which I 
watched little black swing-doors in it push open at in- 
tervals, and faces look out. The last scene was very 
terrible. Warre was there, rubicund, but anxious, in 
robes, reading a service. The prisoner stood close to 

142 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

me with a friend, holding a little prayer-book. I could 
see his face twitch and grow suddenly pale. When the 
long prayers were over, he got up and ran to the scaffold, 
as if glad to be gone. He was pulled in at one of the 
swing-doors — and there was a silence. Then a thing 
like a black semaphore went down on the top of the 
scaffold — (which was nothing but a great tall thing en- 
tirely covered with black cloth) — and loud thumps and 
kicks were heard inside, against the boards, which made 
me feel sick." 

" 7«/y 9. — Only a very few letters — but the little Life 
of Keats came, and I allowed myself to read it — so much 
of the morning drifted past. I do not know why, but I 
find myself always in a strange excitement of mind when 
I draw near to Keats in any book. It horrifies me to 
read of the poky and vulgar people he lived among; and 
he himself was so fine through all — so fine, even in 
indolence and misfortune — so manly, in his own way, 
though tempted by luxuriousness of nature — looking 
through the mist with so clear and high a gaze. I can't 
help feeling that this view of life, which he held and ex- 
pressed, was truer in some way than his diseased, jealous, 
fevered, tortured dreams; but why should the latter be 
suffered to cloud the former.'' Why, if it is important 
to the world to feel truly and to admire beauty, should 
such a one as Keats have been made but to be over- 
thrown? The ghastly suspicion of course is that God 
is not concerned with the development of the artistic 
sense in the world — or with the religious or even moral 
development either, for the matter of that. Yet they are 
there as truly as the physical and commercial instincts; 
only God seems to favour none, to protect none. 

" I found scribbled at the end of the Keats a bit 
of a ten years' old journal, written as I came away 
from Dunskey in '96. On the eve of such great 
changes! It is only a note of landscape beauties, rather 
thin. 

" But I can't get the thought of Keats out of my head ; 
I yearn after the kind of thought that filled his mind; 

143 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

because it seems to me — I say this without conceit — to 
be one of the few instances of the expression of a man's 
poetical and artistic faith that I meet with in literature 
that I feel to beat every moment stronger, fiercer, deeper, 
more intense than my own. To this he added the 
supreme art of expression; and I daresay there are 
hundreds of poetical and artistic persons who have 
felt much more intensely than I — I only say I don't 
find their confessions in literature anywhere — and I 
would give a great deal for so frank a confession as 
Keats's Letters give. 

** The goldfinches in the shrubbery have delighted 
me — they swing on the tall larkspurs and the m.ilk- 
thistles. They flash about; they sing briskly — I can't 
take my eyes oflF them." 

Howard Sturgis and P.L. are next seen spending a 
Sunday at Hinton; and if the guests were loquacious, 
let a snapshot photograph, taken in the garden, attest 
the fact that our host was not silent either. I may add 
that P.L., on his recommendation, had just been 
appointed to the charge of the Pepysian Library at 
Magdalene, a post which he held for the next two 
years. 

** Hinton^ July 14. — In the afternoon we walked by the 
fields to Wilburton, and looked at the church. The 
scent and sound of the great lime-tree, full of flowers and 
bees, came softly to us in the still afternoon. How 
strange it is that the lime-tree smells so perilously sweet, 
and yet that a single blossom has hardly any fragrance — 
only a vegetable catkin sort of smell. Then along the 
fen-road — and we sate long by a stream looking up to 
Haddenham. I don't know what we talked about; it 
was not talk — it was opening a sluice between two 
minds. . . . 

" After tea I worked a little and he sate out sewing and 
reading till Percy came. We had a delightful evening, 
but the worst of these days is that guests do take up 
time; and my diary is written so long after that I have 

144 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

forgotten all the details, all the funny stories, all the 
delicious imitations, all the pretty flowers and leaves 
we strawed in the way. Anyhow it was a very sweet 
evening, and we went late to bed. It was E.W.B.'s 
birthday; I did not forget that." 

'* Sunday^ July 15. — The two would not go to church, 
but I did most reluctantly. It was hot and dreary with a 
small congregation. When I got back we talked on the 
lawn, we talked at lunch, we walked on the road to Ald- 
reth and talked all the time, we talked at tea. I can't 
say what it was all about, but it was most interesting, mov- 
ing about from one subject to another, like a leaf blown 
by the wind. At 6.0 Howard proposed to leave me; we 
had been talking since 12.0 on end — but Percy protested 
that our time together was short. However, I made an 
excuse. The truth is that a weariness, deadly, deep and 
inconceivable, fell on me. I felt as if I would never be 
able to talk again; and the thought that we might be 
going on talking from 6.0 to 12.0 without a break was 
simply intolerable. It seems to me exactly like eating 
meal after meal. I do not only not like it; I loathe 
it. . . . After all sociability is a pleasure, or supposed to 
be one; and the pleasure of the whole thing simply flew 
to shreds in a gale of fatigue. I did a little reading and 
writing by myself, and was greatly rested; in reading and 
writing the mind plods at its own pace and does its own 
work. In talking it has to leap, to run, to race; and it 
has, too, to be perpetually and swiftly apprehending 
another point of view, which is fatiguing. I cannot 
conceive how Howard can talk as he does all day, and 
talk brilliantly and beautifully, too — and yet cannot 
write a book. We did talk again all evening — but we 
interspersed the reading of scraps out of books. Then to 
bed — and Howard said in my ear, without exaggeration 
or extravagance, I am sure, that he had not had so 
happy a time for years. But this pleasant rapture was 
spoilt by H. and P. lingering on the upper landing and 
exchanging anecdotes, till I thought I should have 
fainted. That is the worst of great talkers, that they 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

can't stop. How very ungenerous I am! I have really 
enjoyed these days tremendously; but I own to some 
fatigue." 

*' Tremans, August 8. — Edward Horner arrived, very 
tall, gracious, courteous, pleasant. . . . 

** I left him to himself all the morning, and found that 
he read a Greek play. Then we went off to Lewes by 
the 1.40, he in Panama and flannels, so much taller than 
myself. It was very hot and we had neither of us 
watches; so we walked fast; the grass of the down was 
slippery walking. 

" We talked a great deal about Eton. I have 
never heard, since I was a schoolmaster, a big boy 
talk with more absolute freedom from the boy's 
point of view, and yet with much perception and 
sympathy. . . . 

*' Certainly somehow the walk will remain in my mind 
as a very beautiful and memorable thing. It passed 
swiftly, like a dream. We sate for a time on Ditchling 
Beacon; and then to the windmills; it was not too hot up 
there, but as we got down to the level, fierce heat fell 
on us; we got to Hassocks station with but four minutes 
to spare. I don't know why I enjoyed it all so much. 
Yes, I do; because here was an absolutely ingenuous and 
modest boy, entirely frank, giving me, not a peep, as often 
happens, but a steady look, without any self-conscious- 
ness or pose, into a very charming, natural, good, honest, 
sweet-tempered mind. He is not a deep speculator, he 
is not hard-headed, not critical, not very poetical — 
nothing in particular; but he loves life and people and 
things of interest; and then too he has the charm of man- 
ner, voice, glance, gesture, that one can't analyse, but 
which is there, and is so fugitive a thing. 

" My interest takes two forms; one to retain his 
affection — because he evidently is really fond of me — 
and the other to give him good advice, which I faithfully 
did! The pleasure is that though it is getting on for 
two years since we met, and though I did not know him 
very well — at least I found it hard to make way with 

146 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

him — yet he has kept up relations all along, and at the 
most changeable, oblivious and fickle time of a boy's life 
— and now proposes of his own accord to come here. 
I find it ver}- difficult to say quite what I feel; and yet I 
don't think I shall forget the soft green sides of the 
beacon, as we sate in the grass, falling steep to the plain 
and the woods and the tiny hamlets — and how the sun 
filled all the hollows with a golden dusty light. The 
plain was merged in haze. 

*' We got home by seven. I went and scribbled a 
little. A quiet evening; E.H. very unwilling to go to 
bed — but somehow when he talks and smokes he 
becomes a different being from what he has been 
by day."* 

" Magdalene^ October 24. — A great pleasure, a letter 
from John Morley, who, by H.M.'s command, has read 
over Volume I, complimenting us sincerely, generously, 
and gravely on the excellence of the work. A great 
relief and a deep pleasure. . . . 

" I forgot to say that I had a delicious experience the 
other day in seeing a covey of partridges near Wilbraham 
drop over a hedge and settle. I stole up, and had 
the pleasure of watching them for some minutes at home 
— through the hedge, not a yard away, lying, feeding, 
sitting, piping. Such a pretty family party — and one 
shoots them! I am giddy and stupid this morning — 
but much amused by Punch — which attributes to me the 
Apocrypha and Shakespeare's Plays^ and says they will 
shortly be issued under my name, with a characteristic 
preface — and that I am engaged on a work of sombre 
thoughtfulness, called At a Safe Distance. This is really 
very funny, and I find myself giggling over it — but one 
must take care not to be too much in evidence. 

" I went out very unwillingly to lunch with Keable. 
There was a silent young brother, and another man 
called Gray. I jested, and without difficulty, though I 
was giddy and uncomfortable — and then rushed off to 
vote for the new Mathematical Tripos. It was an odd 

• Lieut. E. W. Horner, i8th Hussars, was killed in action, November 21, 1917. 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

scene. There was a gathering of about 400 people, 
circulating slowly. Some very picturesque figures. The 
Master of Trinity in a skull-cap, carrying voting tickets 
in his cap as if soliciting alms; he had written them 
all on the wrong papers 1 . . . The Vice-Chancellor sate 
in his cope in the throne. I had many amicable talks, 
mostly with Masters of Colleges — Pembroke, Corpus, 
Christ's and King's. I tried again and again to escape, 
but was caught by lobbyists at the door. Robin Strutt 
employed direct mendacity. Barnes wept tears, Ship- 
ley seized my sleeve and pulled me, not heeding my 
struggles, and Lady Darwin (I think) gave me several 
blows. I stayed nearly an hour and enjoyed it very 
much, though the system of voting is a vilely wasteful 
one. We carried all our points. J. W. Clark, rubicund 
and busy, wrote the figures on a blackboard in the 
gallery. The Proctors were inaudible, and there was 
little or no enthusiasm. 

" I must record an amusing fact. Yesterday at my 
lecture I spoke of Shakespeare's plays being attributed 
to Bacon; there was a loud laugh — unaccountably so. I 
now see that most of the men had seen Punchy where they 
are attributed to me. . . . 

** Then I came in — no longer giddy — and wrote a 
long educational article. This morning I did a lot of 
work on the Q.V.'s Letters; and discussed the organ 
plans with Kett. So it has been a busy and pleasant day, 
full of variety and amusement. ..." 

The Eumenides of Aeschylus, with Stanford's music, 
was performed at Cambridge this term. Mr. A. F. 
Scholfield, now (1926) University Librarian, took the 
part of Orestes. The statuesque appearance of the 
herald in the final scene was long remembered; this 
small part was played by a freshman of King's, Rupert 
Brooke. 

" December 4. — We went to the Greek play. I 
took Sympson and Mallory, and we had the best places 
in the house. The Bishop of Ely just behind us, who 

148 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

was most polite; many scraps of talk with old friends; 
Selw)'n of Uppingham, most cordial, pressed me to go 
and stay there. O.B. was a sight of horror, so leering 
and gross. The play was very impressive, the music 
beautiful. I saw it over twenty years ago. I wept 
copiously when the Furies first burst into song in the dim 
temple. Orestes was excellent, so tired and despairing, 
but both Apollo and Athene rather pompous. A herald 
made a prett)- figure, spoilt by a glassy stare. The final 
procession most beautiful. But the play itself struck me 
as incomparably bad and stupid, like a dull and affected 
fairy-tale. I am always disposed to think the victory 
lies with those who perceive; but these ugly blood- 
sucking Furies, pursuing a man to eat him, in a dull 
mechanical way, bought off at last by an absurd promise 
of privileges, and thwarted by the votes of ten idiotic 
old men presided over by a goddess — could fatuity go 
further.'' I can't think what the Athenians were 
about." 

In December he paid a visit to an old friend and 
Eton colleague, the Rev. Lionel Ford, Headmaster of 
Repton — afterwards Headmaster of Harrow, and now 
(1926) Dean of York. 

'* Repton^ Sunday^ December 9. — Called in an orange 
dawn; a furious whirl of sleet came over — it was a fine 
frosty day. I watched the boys coming back from early 
chapel, while I dressed — in tall hats; they look like Eton 
boys. Then came Lionel in great majesty, stepping 
delicately, every inch a headmaster. Breakfast — and a big 
strong, cheerful, jolly baby arrived, nearly two years old, 
to be viewed. He took an immense fancy to me, and 
sate on my knee all breakfast, playing with my watch, 
helping me to eat, smiling at me. . . . Then to chapel; 
the boys standing outside in rows to talk in the cold; 
masters in gowns and hoods. It is a poor little building, 
but the woodwork good. I sate next L.F. in a kind of 
pew with stalls under the gallery; the gilded angels with 
trumpets, supporting the organ, quaint and pretty — this is 

149 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

Tom Carter's work. The service nice, not very hearty; 
the behaviour of the boys perfect. Indeed both last night, 
and still more this morning, I got a very strong impres- 
sion of a sort of simplicity, freshness and purity about 
these boys. Last night their courtesy and attention were 
marked; there was no sort of discipline kept — it was all 
spontaneous and unaffected courtesy. To-day the man- 
ner of the boys in chapel was ideal. I did not see a single 
whisper, a single act or sign of irreverence. Yet it all 
seemed natural and spontaneous, not drilled — like the 
well-born boys of a good, virtuous and well-bred family. 
The perfection of manner — better than Eton, because 
more simple and less superficial. Perhaps it is hard to 
judge, but they also gave me a feeling of great manliness 
and good tone. I would send a boy there with great 
confidence. 

" Then after an interval, in which I wrote letters, we 
lunched with the boys — eighty in number — in L.F.'s 
house. The place must be well-arranged, because one 
would never know there were boys so near. The place, 
a big hall with many tables; Stratton carving far down 
the room; L.F. and 1 sitting with prefects at a high table. 
This again was nice — a delightful boy next to mc, like 
the best kind of Eton boy, perfect aplomb, and yet 
simple, courteous, agreeable. A clever, smiling 
creature opposite. Talk easy. We went afterwards 
to the House, conducted by Smith-Roose, the head 
of the school — again, such a nice creature. Went 
into many studies and shook hands with many 
boys. . . . 

" Then L.F. and I went a walk. . . . We talked easily. 
I came to the conclusion that L.F. is one of the happiest 
men I know. He is at the head of his old school, an 
unquestioned influence with boys and masters. He has 
pulled it up, he has put it on a good basis, he has got a fine 
and beautiful tone to prevail. He is healthy, happy, 
modest; he enjoys his work; he is most happily married 
to a delightful, capable, accomplished, affectionate wife; 
he lives in a beautiful house, and he is not overworked. 
If this is not happiness, what is } Add to it a contented 

150 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

and not over-energetic constitution, so that he enjoys 
leisure. . . , 

" (Next morning). — I woke early, but not dejected. 
Heard the boys stirring faintly above as they dressed for 
early chapel. Almost wished myself a schoolmaster 
again; and indeed if I were robust, untouched by years, 
sound in nerve, there is nothing I should like better — 
except perhaps writing; but I would not really go 
back." 

'' Hinton^ December 16. — Pitiless rain, which is 
yet so cold that it does not melt the wet waxen 
snow. . . . 

" I expected Lapsley to lunch, but the cab returned 
empty. I read the Browning letters — and went to see 
the Vicar . . . but he was fled. Went for a solitary little 
walk, not unhappy, to Wilburton, on frozen, sloppy 
roads. What went moving through my thoughts like a 
strain of music was the memory of the love of Browning 
and his wife. The letters are marvellous — so gasping, 
so incoherent, so affectedly depreciatory, yet they set the 
heart aglow, because the real thing is there, the love 
' because I am I, and you are you.' It is a thing which 
many people feel, very few can express. Of course it is all 
transcendentalised and intellectualised in these letters — 
but that is the central flame. What would I not give, I 
thought, for such a love! How have I missed it.-* I 
suppose the answer is that I have had my share and more 
than my share of fine things — and I have somehow missed 
my way among them. . . . But the more I grow to feel, 
as I do, that no personal identity survives the grave (yet 
I cannot bear to give up the hope) the more I desire but 
once to have the great devotion. That is the worst 
of imagination. It makes one feel as if one could 
experience it, while I think in my heart that I am not 
capable of it. 

" Lapsley came to tea, having missed the train and 
driven from Cambridge. He seemed in good form, 
and we had a pleasant, rather academic talk. He 
seems to me to be really rather swamped in academical 

151 



i9o6] THE DIARY OF 

things just now. It is inevitable; but I don't like to 
see so finely tempered a sword used to chop firewood. 
Still he is doing a great work, no one greater; and 
to cut, one must have a narrow edge. But he seems 
a little withdrawn from me thereby. I am glad to 
have him here. We talked briskly enough all the 
evening. . . . 

" I have been doing a lot of little odd jobs. I have 
sent off my hymns to be printed in a pamphlet, made up 
my accounts — my income for the year has been well over 
;^3,ooo — written up letters, sent off some Q.V. proofs, 
arranged papers, etc., etc. This has amused me; but 
there is something wrong with me and my head, which 
swims and fails. I woke early this morning, plunged in 
gloom. I was foolish enough yesterday to do some 
more writing, and I wrestle and pray for new ideas. 
How little it matters to anyone else, how much to 



" Tremans, December 31. — Last night Luxmoore* 
touched me much, when I said how happy we had been 
with him, saying * Bless you! how good you have been 
to mel * This morning he went off to stay with the 
Duke of Wellington. I felt like saying good-bye to an 
old and dear relation. . . . Hugh arrived; and I had a 
little call from Beth, who could not abstain from going 
to look at his room. She has a love for her last nursling, 
which exceeds her love for any of us. I went to see her 
before dinner, and said I would send him up afterwards, 
which made her light up with keen delight. Dinner 
pleasant enough — and some disjected talk afterwards cut 
off by prayers, with general alarums and excursions. 
Hugh and I played the piano and organ a good deal. I 
am in a feeble and discontented condition, quite off the 
lines, I don't know why. My fertile mind, instead of 
accepting it as a passing phase of tiredness, forecasts the 
worst. I made up my mind to-day to have a stroke of 
paralysis, and to spend a few crippled years in a sort of 
heavenly resignation. But I can't disguise from myself 

• Mr. H. E. Luxmoore, his friend and colleague for many years at Eton. 
152 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1906 

that I have been in very indifferent health for some time, 
quite inefficient and run down. 

*' So ends 1906. It has been a prosperous year. I 
have made a sort of name as a writer, and amassed much 
money. Magdalene has flourished greatly. I have 
made some new friends. I have not regretted my 
decisions. If I had been well, it would have been a very 
happy year indeed — in so far as success in a chosen line 
is happiness. If I subtract from it all the dark mood in 
which I write, the year would be and ought to be one of 
my most tranquil and fortunate years; because it would 
seem as if Providence had wanted to show me that I 
did right in keeping clear of Eton by loading me with 
little successes. 

*' But I seem to be tending nowhere in particular. 
My desire is to write a great and beautiful book — and 
instead I have become the beloved author of a feminine 
tea-party kind of audience, the mild and low-spirited 
people, who would like to think the world a finer place 
than they have any reason for doing. Well, I don't 
doubt that if I were a bigger and a better man I should 
have more to say — but I am petty, timid, luxurious; and 
so my faculty of writing runs to waste in quiet pools. 
What I desire is more reality and more courage; to find 
some reservoir of strength and patience to draw upon. 
But one cannot make it — one can only be given it — and 
it is not given me! Yet I do earnestly desire a more 
excellent way, though I am sadly adrift. ' I have gone 
astray as a sheep that is lost: O seek thy servant — ' but 
I have no right to finish the verse. I have followed my 
own will in everything — and I have excused my weakness 
and perversity by saying that I am made so. The world is 
a difficult place; and when one walks in a vain shadow, 
as I have done of late, it is rather a terrible place; yet it is 
beautiful, sweet, delightful — and one seems to realise 
that more, year by year — and yet to be kept from joy 
by a hard, fine, transparent and impalpable veil. The 
only thing that remains with me at this moment as a 
bright little ray is the delightful and warmhearted 
letter Lapsley wrote me. ^Se /aire aimer,' he quotes, 

'S3 



i9o6] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

' cest se jaire utile aux autres ' — yet never did any human 
being feel less capable of inspiring love than I at this 
time — a half-contemptuous pity, perhaps, but no more; 
because my suffering, such as it is, is a purely morbid and 
self-centred suffering — the darkness closing in upon the 
flickering flame. 

" Let me close the year with a prayer — 

" Ostende mihi spiritum tuum! " 



154 



VI 

1907 

The shadow of depression darkened gradually, lifting 
at times, settling down again, through a year of much 
anxiety. It was a baffling affliction, and he could 
never discover how best to treat it — whether by dis- 
regarding it, staying at his work, following his normal 
round, or by breaking off and changing his ways and 
resting as well as he might. He tried the first method, 
and things wxnt better for a while; he got through two 
terms at Magdalene with fair composure. But the 
strange anguish returned — like a raging toothache in 
the mind, he used to say — and he tried to take a real 
holiday in the summer at Hinton, forcing himself to 
idle at ease and waste time like other people. He did 
his best, he wrote as little as he could bear to write; 
but the habit of indolence was so unnatural to him, 
it required such an effort to maintain, that it seemed 
to leave him only more exhausted than before. By 
the autumn his mood was so heavy that he found he 
could not endure the term at Cambridge. He 
appealed to his good friend and patient adviser. Dr. 
H. Ross Todd, who prescribed for him a few weeks 
in a nursing-home in London, and then a holiday 
abroad. He went to Italy in December, taking P.L. 
with him for a companion, and spent a month in Rome 
and Florence; but neither was this unusual adventure 
— it was more than ten years since he had last left 
England — of much avail to him in his pain. 

Nothing from without had seemed to cause it, but 
it was sorely increased by a grief which fell this 

^55 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

summer upon himself and his family. His sister was 
struck by a far more disastrous malady of the mind; 
and for the next eight years the slow and uncertain 
fluctuations of her condition were watched in deepen- 
ing anxiety, with the hope of her recovery continually 
deferred. There is no doubt that Arthur's dismay 
under his own affliction, his perpetual dread of the 
future, was much intensified by the thought of his 
sister's illness; but in fact there was no likeness 
between the two cases. The clarity of his mind was 
never affected; at his worst he always knew himself a 
sick man in an enjoyable world that he could no longer 
enjoy. Yet, while the trouble lasted, he could never 
believe that the next trial of his nerves would be 
surmounted as safely as the last had been, and before 
every fresh effort to be made he foresaw calamity. 

A bright mark in the summer was the conclusion 
of his four-year-long task on Queen Victoria's letters. 
The three volumes were published in the autumn; 
and if by that time he could take little interest in their 
appearance, it was a deep relief to have got them off his 
hands before his condition made work impossible. He 
wrote, or rather he finished, no other book this year, 
but his weekly articles in the Church Family Newspaper 
were continued until the autumn. 

In June, 1907, Professor Newton, gallant and 
genial and tyrannical to the last, died at Magdalene. 
His house, the Old Lodge, standing within the pre- 
cinct of the college, was offered to Arthur Benson, who 
decided to move thither from his rooms in the Pepys 
building. But he had hardly made the change before 
his health took him away from Cambridge for the 
winter, and it was not until the following year that 
he was settled in the house which he was to occupy for 
the rest of his life. 

" Magdalene, January 31, 1907. — I reflected sadly to- 
day how I tended to squabble with my women-friends. 
Here have I dropped out of all or nearly all my feminine 
friendships. I never see Lady P., I hear nothing of 

156 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

Countess B. I have lost sight of B.M. I have insulted 
M.C., alienated Mrs. L., shut up Mrs. S. — and so on. 
Yet I do not squabble with my men-triends. ... I have 
had rows with Howard, but he is more feminine than 
most of my friends. I think it is a certain bluntness, 
frankness, coarseness, which does not offend men, but 
which aggravates women. The thing which has tended 
to terminate my women-friendships is that at a certain 
juncture they begin to disapprove and to criticise my 
course, and to feel a responsibility to say disagreeable 
things. One ought to take it smilingly and courteously; 
and one would, if one liked the sex — but I dont like the 
sex. Their mental processes are obscure to me; I don't 
like their superficial ways, their mixture of emotion with 
reason. One's men-friends never criticise, they take 
one for better and worse. One gets plenty of criticism 
from foes, and one supplies the harshest condemnation 
oneself. My own feeling is that one's duty to a friend 
is to encourage and uplift and compliment and believe in 
him. Women, I think, when they get interested in 
one, ha'^e a deadly desire to improve one. They think 
that the privilege of friendship is to criticise; they want 
deference, they don't want frankness. I don't want to 
excuse myself, because I think it is a vital deficiency in 
me; but it is so vital and so instinctive that I don't see how 
to cure it, and I cannot even frame an effective desire to 
do so." 

** Magdalene^ February 2. — A curious day. It was 
bitterly cold. Ward came at 10. o, and I dictated twenty 
letters, mostly to female admirers. They are very 
curious documents, these long, intimate and familiar 
letters from unknown people. My instinct goes rather 
against them, but I don't see that it is really worse than 
talking frankly at a dinner-party. To-day, however, 
there are two very strange documents. One a long, 
charming letter from an Australian girl . . . twelve 
pages of really rather beautiful writing — very informal, 
very full of youth and zest. And one mysterious letter 
from an American widow, who implores me, as a man of 

157 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

honour, to keep her letter secret, and hints at establishing 
a sort of secret understanding ! I reply by a stiff dictated 
letter — feeling the dusk rather unwholesomely fragrant. 
Then Grimble to lunch — and we discussed freewill and 
necessity over a warm fire. Then Shipley came, and 
we rode stoutly by Waterbeach and Landbeach. He 
complained of the pressure of his work; but he enjoys it, 
he fingers many pies. I sate down to write . . . Then 
Molar Cole* dropped in, bearing Europe on his broad 
chest. He discoursed on things fiscal, and I chanted 
cheerful responses. So the time fled away; and at 8.0 I 
drove off to King's, to dine with Monty. This was an 
interesting party, Owen Hugh-Smith, Caryll Lyttelton, 
Carey, Neville Lyttelton, Lady L., Miss L. I took in the 
latter, a pretty and charming girl to whom I rather lost 
my heart. But the dinner-table was so big, the food so 
elaborate and slowly served, that my miseries fell upon me ; 
and it seemed that my own bewildered thoughts tangled 
and blurred the clear thread of my little companion's 
ideas. She, Miss L., became pale, tired, nervous. I 
wanted to amuse and interest her, but I could do neither. 
I am not fit for society just now. One of my horrors is 
that I hear my own husky voice talking, and seem for a 
moment to be out of the body, listening to myself, 
wondering what I shall say next. I had an interlude 
with the General, who was next me; full of the most 
robust and genial life. . . . He told me that the Duke 
of Cambridge had once said to him that he had been 
discussing a certain person with papa. * The Archbishop 

said ' — said the Duke — ' He is the d dest old fool 

that ever went on two legs! ' * His Grace's own words,' 
the Duke added. Also that the old Duke of Cambridge, 
the father, once stayed at Hagley, and was present at 
family prayers — he sate with his hands on his knees, 
beaming. At the end he said to Lord Lyttelton, ' A 

d d good institution.' 

" Then we went off to the drawing-room, where Carey 
sang divinely some songs of A. Somervell, that made me 
nearly weep. The General played patience. ... I drove 

* A. C. Cole, sometime Governor of the Bank of England, died in 192O; 

158 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

away with Carv'll, as charming as ever; we passed the 
proctors ranging mysteriously, and chuckled to think he 
was sinning by driving in a cab. I came back gratefully 
to my rooms. The odd thing is that an evening like this, 
with its mixture of interest and discomfort, does not 
tire me at all. These nerves are tiresome things — they 
leave me well and strong for ordinary purposes; but 
they settle like vultures on the things that in my normal 
condition I enjoy most, and spoil all sociable things 
for me. . . . 

** Only for a few minutes to-day have I had a sense of 
peace and joy — as we rode slowly in silence along muddy 
roads, with the huge flat about us, bounded by the low 
far-off hills, great golden rays streaming down from 
banks of purple cloud. It seemed then as if one could 
live a sweet and solitary life in the country silence — but 
one could not! That would drive one into morbid 
gloom. One must go in and out, and bear the fret and 
fume — though I felt as though I could have sat at a 
window, looking out over the huge pastures, down to the 
glowing west, with line after line of dyke and hedgerow, 
and asked for nothing but to be left alone and quiet, 
living passively and serenely, like grass or thorn. How 
I hated the thought of Cambridge at that moment, the 
packing together of lives and ambitions and relationships 
— I seemed to want nothing but to sit idle, breathing the 
frosty air. ... I would not live one moment of my life 
over again; and, as I say, I would like the memory of it 
all to perish, and the very spirit within me to be blotted 
out. Yet, strange to say, with all this, I feel myself to 
be tough and vigorous in body; and no less so in mind. 
I feel indeed as if it were my very vigour and vitality 
that make me suffer as I do. If I were simply languid and 
mute, I should think differently — but I am full of ideas 
and interests. I am fevered rather than feeble, like a 
strong man with a broken limb. To-day I have written, 
dictated letters, thought, talked, worked with an energy 
which I used not in the old days to possess. I can't rest 
for a moment; and my distresses seem to me to be rather 
the nervous weariness of over-energy than the collapse of 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

weakness. And then behind it all lies a curious sense 
that there is something left for me to do — what, I cannot 
divine. Well, it is a strange mystery. If I am wanted, 
I shall be sent; if I am sent, I shall go. At present I seem 
to be held back, bound, fettered — and I hobble along 
feeling my chain. 

" The place is full to-day of highly ridiculous men 
come up to vote, pleased with their gowns, full of mute 
affection. An absurd Archdeacon, in fur coat, tall hat 
with strings and rosettes, gaiters, silk gown, purring 
along. But I hear to-night that the SUaio? Aoyo? has 
prevailed, and that the Mathematical Tripos is to be 
reformed. There is a faint hope of better things in this 
— but it will delay the ejection of Greek, I fear." 

The " Byron portrait," mentioned in the next 
extract, was a painting which he had discovered and 
bought in a dilapidated condition some years before. 
When cleaned and repaired, it was found to be a 
portrait of great charm and beauty, but the painter has 
never been identified. It was reproduced in Mr. 
R, E. Prothero's edition of Byron's works (1898), and 
now hangs in the hall at Trinity. 

" Saturday, February 9. — Hunting came, bringing 
the Byron portrait. Every time I look at it the 
beautiful soft eye of the charming boy seems to regard 
me reproachfully for giving him away; but he ought 
to be in Trinity. Hunting also brought in loads of 
garden produce, carefully packed, which he sold to 
a greengrocer, and brought me the price ruefully — 
Ss. 6d. ! . . . 

" At 7.45 I drove off to Pembroke, found the Master 
— looking pale and sad, I thought — and Mrs. Mason, 
by themselves. But a collection of buffers and bufferesses 
streamed in. I was the only unimportant person 
there. Wilkinson, the beloved Primus, looking so 
strong and plump, with a touch of colour in his cheeks, 
and with the same wistful and fatherly meekness; a 
beautiful figure, aged 74, with his cross of amethysts. 

160 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

The Master of Trinity, very bland, paler and more 
brushy-haired than ever — Mrs. Butler, very small and 
grey and demure — Donald and Lady Alba, Lady Loch, 
Stanton, Mrs. Selwyn, Miss Wilkinson, and W. O. 
Burrows, now Archdeacon of Birmingham, as neat and 
good and brisk as he was when I first knew him at Eton 
thirty-three years ago, and where he was so good a friend 
to me. I took down Miss W., a bright, cheerful girl, 
very proud of her father, and ready to talk about 
their busy life. I also had a good gossip with Lady 
Alba. . . . 

** The most dramatic moment was when the Master of 
Trinity, in the middle of his soup, was overtaken by a 
sudden and violent sneeze. He held one hand over his 
face. His spoon plunged into his soup, while he felt 
with hurried dignity for a handkerchief. It seemed to 
me like a picture of Blake, like God, in the Job designs, 
sneezing. Then the loud, sonorous, and unctuous Amen 
that he chanted in response to the Master's grace. . . . 

'* Ah, there was one great moment I had forgotten, 
when, after dinner. Mason handed round Gray's big 
commonplace book, with his own MS. of the Elegy. 
That nearly made me cry, it was so great and so authen- 
tic. I notice that he spells the word Huswife — and that 
the Ode to Music originally began — 

Awake my lyre, my glory wake — 

altered to ' Aeolian lyre,' I suppose because the other was 
too scriptural. Not a very lively evening, but a sense of 
being in touch with some big people. The Primus 
rather abashed by academical distinction; he lay smiling 
while the Master of Trinity told long rotund, gracious 
stories all about nothing. Such an evening is all on the 
surface. No one says anything that is not decorous, 
commonplace, dignified — no peeping into hearts or 
minds. I came back and sate up late writing and 
reading — and slept rather ill." 

" March 2. — A soft, mild day, very languid. I wrote 
and dictated letters. Donald looked in, and I went with 

L 161 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

him and got my codicil witnessed. I put this down 
because I have had a strong impulse to complete my 
arrangements. If it were to be a true presentiment, it 
is worth stating; if not, it will do to be amused at in the 
future. I dictated a long letter to one of the ingenuous 
spiritualistic ladies who write to me, who tell me the 
absurdest stories, and wish me to be instantly converted 
to spiritualism. . . . 

" Dove, the steerer, lunched with me; I expressed my 
hopes that there would be no row to-night. I can 
honestly say that the one day in the year when I loathe 
being in Magdalene is the last day of the races. One 
never knows what these inconsequent young men may do. 
Why I dislike a row so much is that three-quarters of the 
fun of it is that the Dons are thought to object; and here 
we are on such easy and friendly terms with the men that 
the jest is a rude and offensive one. 

" I wrote some more letters, and then went down to 
the boats oppressed with sighs. The infernal Literary 
Society dinner hangs heavily over me; moreover the days 
fill up with engagements, so that I really hardly ever have 
a perfectly quiet normal day here. I don't seem able to 
help it — people ask one so long ahead that there is no 
escape. 

" I got down about 3.30, and saw some of the racing; 
but I was alone and met hardly anyone. Very few dons 
about, and the young men seemed to-day to be unneces- 
sarily young. . . . Then back, where I wrote a little 
rather feebly, and sent off a packet of letters. I am dining 
out again, and would it were midnight and all well! It 
is all very well to say that one should not be timid and 
anxious. God knows that one does not want to be; and 
perhaps in the dim hereafter it will be seen to have 
been useful and fruitful; but one can't see it now; and 
not only do the obstacles depress one, but one's 
own lack of courage in facing them is more deplorable 
still. 

" It was misty to-day, and the sun broke in soft flame- 
like orange on the ripples of the stream. How beautiful 
if one had the heart to enjoy it ! Then it clouded over 

162 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

and a whispering rain fell, which I hear rustling in the 
yew-tree, a peaceful sound. 

" Well, I went to Trinity to my Club. It is very odd 
that I, the least clubbable of people, should belong 
to so many of these symposia — four or five. The Club 
was there, Lapsley, Foakes-Jackson, Laurence, Barnes 
and I. Our guests, the Master of Corpus, Cunningham, 
Walter Durnford — the latter very gouty. We had a 
sumptuous dinner and drank fine claret. . . . All pleasant 
and easy, and I had abundance of nice things said by 
the Trinity men about the Byron portrait. I enjoyed 
myself and had no c?-ise — I believe I am improving. But 
gloom fell on me at the thought of going back, and what 
might be happening at Magdalene. The great court of 
Trinity was full of uproarious undergraduates racing 
about, hooting, putting the lamps out. . . . The streets 
were quiet, and Magdalene, mirabile dictu^ was absolutely 
quiet save for a few belated revellers standing about, one 
or two the worse for liquor. But I don't mind that! I 
don't think it does any harm for a cheerful, warm- 
blooded undergraduate, after a course of training and 
rowing hard, to talk and sing and drink too much at a 
bump-supper. ... I sate quietly for an hour, read and 
wrote; thus does one afflict oneself in vain." 

He was now elected a member of the old-established 
dining-club called the " Literary Society'." For the 
rest of his life, excepting the years of illness, he 
attended the Society's monthly dinners in London 
with much constancy. 

''March 4. — I got off about 2; in the train I 
had the strength of mind to look over essays for 
Wednesday. I went to the Athenaeum, hating the idea 
of the [Literary Society] dinner, and all the fuss, and 
spent a teeble time there reading and turning over papers 
and magazines. ... I went up to the smoking-room on 
my arrival, and there was Stanford playing bridge. He 
has just refused to write an ode, setting my words to 
music, for Repton, on the ground that he has not a 

163 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

moment to spare till May. . . . He played bridge till 6, 
when he came over and talked to me. He reiterated his 
statement about having no time. He said, not very 
gracefully, that to compose such a thing meant a lot of 
work, sketching it out, writing it, scoring it, copying it: 
* Ye can't dump it down on a piece of paper like a 
poem, my boy.' He looked well, but very pale — though 
handsomer than of old, I think — rather a fine 
expression. 

'* Then I drove to Lambeth. . . . Dressed, and went 
off at 8.30 to call for the Archbishop at the Athenaeum, 
taking with me his dress-coat. I found him there, all 
eyes, very full of talk. Met Austin Dobson and Basil 
Champneys, also bound for the dinner. Drove to 
Prince's, Jermyn Street — rather a Pompeian place, heavy 
gilding, etc. Found a company gathering in a saloon, 
and was introduced to Spencer Walpole, the historian, a 
kindly and genial man, and many others. When dinner 
was announced, I was led in, like a blushing bride, and 
sate next S.W. in the seat of honour. . . . 

*' The dinner was good and elaborate — much cham- 
pagne. I was much at ease, and had no nervousness at 
all, though I got tired. A man went round and collected 
our shot; we paid, I think, lis. These great people are 
pleasant and easy, and I think rather more interesting 
than the ordinary don; but it was very like a high-table 
dinner up here. They were very kind and welcoming to 
me, and made me at home. ..." 

" Hinton, April 19. — A long and interesting letter from 
P.L., to whom I had sent my big book. Diary of Artist^ to 
look at. He does not approve, and says so. I had hoped 
he would have discerned a figure v/ithin, lying in how- 
ever cramped a position. He praises my style, but tells 
me that I have not concentration or thread enough, and 
that by too sedulous a pursuit of the sweetness of beauty 
I miss its nobleness; so, too, by looking too close for 
tranquillity in life, I miss something grander — something 
harsher, rougher, and more dark. This is all both 
beautiful and true. But I don't think one can resolutely 

164 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

set out in pursuit of the uglier kind of beauty. I don't 
think I am made to discern it. I see sometimes, at a 
concert, by their faces and exclamations, that my convives 
have admired a piece of music that has been to me 
nothing but desperate and hideous clatter and bang. 
Well, am I to go on hearing such things, trj'ing to 
persuade myself that it is fine? 

" As to the rougher, harsher, nobler aspects of life, I 
see the crags and precipices of it all; but with fear and 
dismay. 1 cannot write of it — and as for searching for 
the tragic in life, I do not believe in climbing into dizzy 
places if one has reason to think that one will be dizzy 
there; it ends in meekly tumbling and toppling down. 
Of course it all depends upon how likely one is to topple 
and tumble, whether one likes the risk or not, whether one 
is intoxicated by the earlier elation. I am not; I am 
ambitious, but both timid and indolent; and I think that, 
this being so, I shall do better to spend my time in 
pointing out nests in hedges to unobservant people — 
the little effects of unobtrusive beauty which I see and 
which most people overlook — than in scaling the 
crags. . . . 

" I worked very hard between tea and dinner, and 
wrote no less than four pieces — 4,000 words, I think; 
The Librarian and The Cathedral Tower for the prose 
lyrics, and Augustus Hare and a reflective passage about 
Motives for Solitude. Dinner; reading; bed. I was 
overshadowed, but only dimly, by the misery of pitching 
my tent again. Slept sound." 

In April he took his usual holiday with Tatham 
— this year at the King's Head, Cirencester. The 
pilgrimage to Kelmscott, the home of William Morris, 
recorded in the following extract, was repeated more 
than once in later years. 

" Cirencester^ April 5. — The weather has recovered it- 
self again ; a hazy mackerel sky with a light breeze. After 
writing many small letters, etc., we bicycled off at 12.0 for 
Fairford. The road there uninteresting. The church 

.65 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

is finer than I had expected, rather solid, of an orange 
sort of stone — very late Perpendicular. It stands at the 
end of a pretty little piazza of quaint houses. Inside it 
is a wonderful place. The windows are marvellous — 
most of them familiar to me from the book of reproduc- 
tions we have at home; the faces of the old saints and 
patriarchs, as E.W.B. used to point out, so ugly and full 
of character as well as humanity — so different from Mr. 
Kempe, and still more from the rabbit-jawed type. I 
care less and less for the archaeology of things, and more 
and more for their beauty. These old mellow pictures, 
rich as the wings of butterflies, many of them half oblit- 
erated, fed and satisfied the eye ; but I doubt if they would 
have had much beauty when new. There is a whole row 
of clerestory windows of the persecutors of the Church, 
people like Nero and Domitian — and a most singular 
humour displayed throughout in numberless demons, 
green and brown and blue, covered with scales, with long 
tails and noses like augers, all as merry as grigs and 
tormenting souls with a will. An unhappy child sits in a 
kind of churn, being diligently churned by a cheerful 
demon in blue. The panel representing hell seems to 
me purely humorous, but I suppose it fed the sense of 
awe and horror once. Very little anywhere which could 
appeal to one's emotion — except a sad soul, looking out 
of a barred window, in a grey rock, through a waft of 
flame, while the Saviour comes along below, conterens 
portas aereas. . . . 

" Then on through rich, flat water-meadows to Lechlade, 
another charming place of old comfortable houses of 
many types. . . . The sedged river, with the fragrant 
smell of the river-water bubbling through the sluices, 
into a pool where a teal was diving, made up for me 
a scene of great sweetness — so English, so serene, 
so utterly unaffected. Then on by a rough road to 
Kelmscott. We found it, a little hamlet of grey houses, 
in the middle of the alluvial plain; save for the low hill 
opposite, and the charm of the gabled and Georgian 
houses, it might have been in Cambridgeshire. More 
than one pretty dovecote, gabled and stone-tiled. Then 

166 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

at last we saw, at the hamlet-end, the house which is so 
familiar to me from pictures, and which means a great 
deal to me. It was much simpler, more rustic, more shy 
and wild than I had expected. It is an incredibly 
picturesque house, with innumerable wings and gables, 
mullioned, stone-tiled; with some variety of style (e.g. 
little pediments over some attic-windows), stone balls 
on the gables. It is much shut in by outbuildings and 
walls, and the byre of the farm with the barns comes up 
quite close to it. The old farm-buildings are very 
picturesque too, and the rough ditches, the farm-lumber 
ever)^where, the willow-patch, the poultr)^ all about, add 
to its unaffected air — a house meant for use and comfort- 
able life, not at all for artistic reveries. We wandered in. 
The farm-men ver)' courteous, but we were refused 
admittance, though Mrs. Morris was away, very peremp- 
torily by a tall, grave, polite man who was digging gravel. 
Still we got a view of it all round, and peeped in at a 
garden door, seeing some of the shaped yews Morris used 
to clip; the standard pear-trees — flowers coming up in 
the borders, bays, box-hedges — all very sweet and simple. 
... It certainly has an extraordinary beauty, because it 
looks lived in and worked in. I should have liked to see 
the tapestry room where Rossetti worked. But I have 
no great lo-ve for either him or Morris, though I have a 
romantic admiration for the definite, clear-cut, beauty- 
haunted lives they led. Something of Morris's own love 
for the kindly earth, and the simple country' business, 
hung over the whole for me. We could see the river 
making its loops in the water-meadows a furlong away. 
. . . The rooks were noisy in the elms, and the spare 
sunshine, with the big white clouds in the sky, gave it 
all a wholesome beauty, though I should like to see 
it in summer foliage. 

*' We went to the little church, a sweet place, of many 
styles. . . . One thing vexed me; in an angle of the tran- 
sept outside sate a rather pretty young lady in black, and 
a group of silly children, rather dressed up, in pinafores, 
were being photographed by an artistic gent — all holding 
their arms up. This gave a sense of sham aestheticism, 

167 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

which spoilt the entire simplicity of the scene. ... It 
pleased me to think of Morris striding bluffly about 
here, loving everything on which his eyes rested, full 
of go and zest and country happiness. This was a 
very memorable hour to me. 

" Then off by a hideous rough road, which struck 
off from Lechlade to Hatherop , . . and so to another 
enchanting place, Bibury, a village nestled in a steep 
hollow by a clear stream. . . . Then home against a 
strong headwind, through Barnsley, and so down to 
Cirencester. 

" The sight to-day of a huntsman in scarlet having a 
mug of ale handed up to him at an inn-door by a smiling 
girl made a pretty vignette. But as I sit now quietly after 
tea, recalling and sorting my impressions of the sweet 
things I have seen, I am filled with the old melancholy 
wonder as to what it all means, why one should love the 
home, the earth, the scene so passionately, while one 
knows that one is speeding into the darkness. ..." 

" Magdalene y April 2 j^. — My forty-fifth birthday. For 
I think the first time in my life I had not a single line from 
anyone, or a single word on the subject of my birthday— 
by the last post, however, a little letter from Fred. This 
shows that one gets older and more isolated. It was 
what is called a beautiful day, warm and soft and sunny 
— a day on which, coming after cool weather, I feel as if 
I should burst; my arteries beat, my head is heavy. But 
it was kindly micant, I doubt not. I worked hard at proofs 
all morning, and finished a great batch. Then Lilley 
came to lunch, and was very nice; such a fine fellow in 
his quiet way. Then I rode with P.L to Newmarket; 
the air full of wild scents and woodland odours, and 
every bush and wood shot with green. We ran through 
Newmarket and on to Snailwell. Newmarket, a vile 
town; the little boy-jockeys everywhere, with gaiters and 
pert faces, fill me with a sort of terror, and the big rich 
houses are horrible. By train to Cambridge, and so 
home after a pleasant ride, full of inconsequent talk. 
Then some writing. . . . Then Hall, with Bellars and 

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ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

P.L. My new sconces in the gallery lit up, as in my 
honour. Then to my rooms — a thoroughly quiet 
normal day, such as I dearly love. I have practically 
decided to give myself a present — a motor. I think 
I am rich enough; I should not hesitate to start a 
stable. 

** I suppose I ought to be in a devout and solemn mood ; 
but I am not. I have enjoyed the day, and I don't mind 
being forty-five. ... It seems a very short time since my 
twentieth birthday, when I was an undergraduate; and I 
am very much the same person as I was then. I think 
that my chief ambitions then, if I had any, were to get 
some money for the sake of liberty, and to win some 
literary success. I have both. The former seems to 
give me very little liberty, the latter is very different from 
being what I expected — because I have got the ki^c^ of 
literary success, a popular success, that I certainly never 
expected, and I am not, what I hoped to be, reckoned 
among literary artists. The strange thing is that my 
schoolmastering period seems utterly wiped out of my 
life, as if it had never been. ..." 

" Whit-Sunday^ May 19. — What incredible folly one 
gives way to 1 I have spent a miserable twenty-four hours 
since yesterday at 1 1 .0 when I consented to preach. Why 
miserable,'' I don't know. I had a neat typewritten 
simple sermon ready. I had only to stand up for ten 
minutes and read it out to a congregation of some twenty 
people, all of whom I know, and whose opinion I do not 
really regard. But the thing has hung over me like a 
black cloud. A fear of breaking down, of turning faint, 
of hurrj'ing out, etc., etc. I have enacted a dozen 
possible scenes over and over. My sleep last night was 
broken with fearful dreams — a huge function at Eton, 
which I was to address. ... A vast, incongruous party 
was assembled. Last of all papa came in and was very 
gracious. I waited and went away with him, and he was 
in his easiest, simplest, most loving mood; he suggested 
a walk, that we might have a long talk; * It is such an age 
since I have seen you, dearest boy,' he said — and smiled. 

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Then the recollection of the function which was then 
proceeding, and probably waiting for me, came on me, 
and I ran from him in stricken haste, while he waited 
smiling by the gate. 

"So it went on all night — waking in misery; but I 
got a good deal of sleep. Of course it shows that my 
nerves are a good deal in rags. Then I read a little, 
breakfasted, read more — and went in feeling fairly cheer- 
ful. But in the middle of the service my terrors came on 
me, and I felt I could not stand it — my legs quivered, my 
voice became husky. Then came the hymn. Then my 
own voice making the invocation. And then I read the 
whole sermon, clearly and strongly, with due emphasis, 
without a touch of nervousness, gazing benignantly 
round — and it was that performance I have dreaded for 
twenty-four hours! Yet no amount of deriding myself 
as a fool, or even the prudential thought that fretting over 
it was the very thing to bring the catastrophe about, will 
help me. . . . 

" Simpson came in to lunch — pleasant and intelligent 
— and we talked on many matters. I don't quite under- 
stand the lie of his mind; but he is fond of good literature 
and austere books. Then I went out, really feeling 
rather tired. It was cold and fresh, but with gleams of 
sun. I went along the Backs, and how I hated the 
good-humoured, ugly, shoving, noisy democracy! I 
turned into King's garden and walked there a long 
time round and round. The place is very beautiful, and 
always suggests to me paradise. The way in which the 
lawns run in smooth inlets, in and out of the shrubberies, 
the edges of the beds all fringed with a foam of flowers, 
is very sweet. The real misfortune is that the garden 
has fallen into the hands of a botanist, whose idea is to 
cut down trees and do everything for the sake of having 
specimens of flowers, with names on tin labels. It is 
like turning a country-house into a school. . . . 

" But I felt somehow that I was nearing the end, or 
near the end, of my tapestry of life. I have used up my 
strength, such as it was, and my reserves. I am tired, 
and my only way of fighting tiredness is to tire myself 

170 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 
afresh. It takes people in different ways, and that is my 



w; 



ly. 



" Hinton^ June 28. — Many letters and proofs. We 
started to bicycle at 12.0. My bike punctured in the 
drive; but we had out the motor at once and flew to 
Ely, only to find that our train only ran on Mondays — 
so there was an ebb! The motor had gone when we 
discovered our loss — and so we took our lunch, walked 
by the river and hired a boat. We rowed, or rather 
Mallory did, along by deserted wharves, grass-grown 
and melancholy, by cottage gardens and willowy islets, 
to a place where the Cathedral stood up over the orchards 
like a crag; and here we lunched at our ease and discussed 
absolute beauty and the beauty of Gothic architecture 
in particular — about which I am gravely sceptical. Then 
caught the 2.0 train to Lynn and went on to North 
Wootton. I liked the great rich flat pasture fields by 
Lynn, with the big thorn bushes and elders, and still 
better the wide marshlands to the north with the flood 
banks, over the big sands and creeks of the Wash, with 
their splendid and romantic names — " Stubborn Sand " 
and " Great Black Gat," &c. Here we decided for 
Castle Rising. We walked through North Wootton, 
and tried to order tea at The House on the Green, but 
were rejected, and felt like the Apostles with the 
Samaritans. Then a charming common, with sandhills 
and fern and fir-trees opened before us, full of poultry that 
ran to be fed — and so by a sequestered lane to the village, 
the great keep peeping through trees. We trespassed 
here and had to climb a spiky gate. Ordered tea at a 
nice inn and went up to the Castle. It is simply enchant- 
ing: a huge moat, full of nettles and clinging elders, 
with the great grass-grown mounds all about: then a 
bridge, and you find yourself in a sort of cup-like hollow 
in the top of the great green hill, where there stands a 
Norman keep, unroofed but extremely perfect. . . . 
It was very grand inside, and gave one a sense of an old, 
rough, ugly, full-blooded life. The thing I remember 
is the growth of mallow, borage and snapdragon. From 

171 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

the top a fine wide view over the tree-tops. Mallory 
made me shudder by jumping lightly up on some ruinous 
masonry, with a sheer drop of 60 feet beyond, to look 
at the view. Then we got down and had tea out on 
the lawn — but had no time for either church or alms- 
house. At the latter the old women wear red cloaks 
with Howard badges, steeple-crowned hats, high-heeled 
buckled shoes, and are ruled by a Governess, 

" It was pleasant out there on the lawn; but we were 
hurried — flew back to the station over the pretty sandy 
common. 

*' A horrible old woman in the train, like a bishop. 
She had put a great tin trunk in the corner seat, and was 
wrapped up closely, though the heat was suffocating. 
At intervals she drank brandy. But I could not wholly 
hate her, she seemed so anxious and sore-stricken at the 
perils of the journey, and so resolved to safeguard her 
own health and comfort. A great solemn face with 
twitching brow and oppressed eyes. Then there was a 
sickly school-teacher, reading Geo. Meredith, with a 
violin. . . . 

" We were soon at Ely — and flew back by motor. 
I read and wrote a little — even breaking out into a sonnet, 
which I suppressed. Then dinner, music, and a little 
talk. It has been a quite perfect and delightful day, a 
day in a thousand — full of pretty sights, little adventures, 
and all filled and rounded by easy simple natural affec- 
tionate talk with a delightful boy who seems at his ease 
with me and treats me like a good-natured uncle. ... I 
don't quite like being used as though I were so harmless 
and old — I feel so young and rash! At least quite as 
much, if not more so, than I used to feel. He told me 
that I was looked upon as a kind of " ghostly father " 
to the whole college — a person, I suppose, of mild and 
amiable ways, always ready (it seems) to pour out pious 
advice. I don't feel as pious as I am thought to feel, 
certainly! — nor quite so mild and tame. However, it 
was intended as a compliment, no doubt. 

" I hate his going away, and have a great desire to make 
the most of these beautiful days. One does not often 

172 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

get the society of an ingenuous and congenial young 
man, who is also sincerely affectionate, to oneself"; and 
perhaps it is rather a dangerous luxury. Still it has 
beguiled my depression in these gloomy days as nothing 
else could have done; he has walked with me as the angel 
walked with Tobit." 

" Hinton^ August 5. — Rather an indistinct day. Fine 
and hot, though storms predicted (Bank Holiday). 
Spent much of the morning in clearing up accumula- 
tions. I can hardly believe that I have been here about 
two months and done so little. I do not suppose I 
have worked so little for years. Went off at i.o. 
The swallows at Earith were sitting on the telegraph 
wires in hundreds, the wires quite bent with the weight. 
I rode to Somersham and Chatteris, lunching by the 
wayside close to a huge plant of dead-nettle with purple 
flowers, covered with peacock-butterfly caterpillars — 
black, pointed, writhing things. At Chatteris I drank 
and explored the hot dull yellow town. There is one 
huge house in it, like a suburban mansion, the kind 
of place I remember in Richmond, yellow brick, with a 
pediment — but the drive is grass-grown and the garden 
all weeds: the Rectory^, I think. Then out towards 
Stonea, and finally got to the Ireton Way. A good many 
Bank Holiday people about. Just beyond Mepal there 
was a party lunching by the roadside, a respectable 
tradesman, I should guess, and his family. Two of 
the girls shouted impudent rude things to me — incredible 
manners. The English middle-class expresses its joy 
of heart by being rude. That is our idea of 
geniality and humour. . . . Home to tea — in 
mildly good spirits, after a feeble melancholy morning, 
making plans and devising how I should live in every 
house I passed. To turn the old factory at Mepal into 
a phalanstery with a court and water-gate is my present 
plan. 

" But I am not sorry to go; I have had a bad time on 
the whole here, and have been chastised with scorpions. 
I hope I am a little better — I don't know. 

173 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

" I wrote a study of Newton last night — and shall 
finish it to-day, I hope; it is a little photograph rather 
than a picture of the man.* — I have finished it — a big 
bit of work — and I find myself writing with extreme 
ease. 

" I went up to dress and looked out over the peaceful 
pasture, with the old reedy fish-pond and the willows 
in the centre. The lowing of cattle, the barking of the 
bailiff's dog, the only sounds. It would be a sweet place 
if one had a contented spirit or a quiet mind: alas I have 
neither — and I find myself craving for some near com- 
panionship, some enduring love, to help me along. But 
that I have forfeited, and one must just fare onwards 
as one can. 

" Chatteris was ' emptied of its folk this summer 
morn ' — but the Eastern Counties Democracy are 
lacking in grace. They make holiday in an ugly way — 
nothing Athenian about them." 

" Tremans, Sunday^ August 18. — This morning about 
8.15 began a creaking and rustling outside — someone 
moving about as if everyone were ill. I could not sleep, 
and so lit my candles (the room is so dark) and read. 
Then came more and more cautious arrivals, rustling 
and creaking — one would have thought that there must 
have been twenty people. Then a celebration in a room 
four feet by three. ... I don't under-value the 
feeling under it; as I said before, it is a symbol, and 
anything does for a symbol if one is ebullient enough, I 
don't mind their doing it, and I wish them to get what 
raptures they can; but yet there was a sense, when I 
came down to breakfast, of their having been engaged in 
some virtuous exercise, " playing at holy games," as 
Rossetti says, while I was rather reprobate. . . . 

" The day is hot and wet, a steep rain falling out 
of the sky; the house like a vapour-bath; everything 
unutterably hot and languid and stuffy. It is partly that, 
and partly also a real disgust at life and its pretences 
which breeds these wholesome reflections. One could 

* Included in The Leaves of the Tree. 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

hold one's tongue about such things, of course; but it 
does not make them worse to write them down. . . . 
To me, the further I search, the wider spreads the desert 

and the dimness. But and seem to me to build 

themselves nice little houses and to say, " This is all ; 
see how nice the rooms are, with the curtains well drawn; 
there is not anything outside." But if one says, " What 
do the windows look out on? " they say that the pattern 
of the curtains is so prettv' that it is a pity to draw them, 
and that artificial light is really better for the eyes. And 
then if one does twitch the curtain aside and see the 
ghastly glimmer of the formless twilight fading on the 
leagues of sand — well, one can't well return to the wall- 
papers and candles, however much one may dread and 
hate the desert. . . . 

" After lunch L. went to see Beth, and I found him 
there with the dear old lady, showing him her gallery, 
which extends over seventy-three years! — from Bolton 
Abbey to Tremans, What a beautiful life it has all 
been, and how vain to say that it has been achieved by 
any sense of exercising her ivill — only by a natural beauty 
and lovingness of heart and mind." 

** August 24. — A letter from Gosse, asking me to 
come and see him. ... I lunched and corrected proofs 
in the train. Then walked straight to the House of 
Lords through tortuous streets, ending up with the 
Abbey. What a funny place the Abbey is ! It is very 
noble, in its darkness and mistiness, but spoilt for me, I 
confess, by the crowds. The monuments fill me with 
delight — the more absurd they are the more I love 
them. . . . The statue of Wilberforce interests me; if it 
were of the wickedest man that ever lived, a man 
satanically cynical, it would be said to be characteristic. 
Then some of the recent burials; a president of the 
Institute of Civil Engineers — I had never heard of him 
— has a huge brass on the floor, where he appears in frock- 
coat and trousers. Street, the architect, is buried there; 
he kneels by a crucifix in an Inverness cape. And yet 
the Dean won't allow the smallest memorial to Mrs. 

175 



1907] THE DIARY OF 

Browning! It is the rooted distrust in the English mind 
of an artist — you must do something else as well. Was 
there ever anything so ridiculous as the reputation of John 
Morley, a man who has written a few fairly good books, 
whom we are asked to regard as a great man of letters ! 
The Abbey is so interesting because it reveals the topsy- 
turveydom of the English mind so completely — the 
worship, not of the people who will last, or whom others 
will hold to be our ornaments, but the man of the hour, 
the representative of privilege and rank. 

" I went to the House of Lords. I had never seen 
so many peers about in those stately rooms and corridors. 
They buzzed like a wasps' nest if you push a stick in. 
I suppose they feel like that, and almost smell the fuse. 
I found Gosse in the library — a blazing fire, and 
three or four very shady and dickey-looking peers 
smoking. . . . And these are the brightest jewels in 
Britannia's crown, enshrined in all their lustre in 
these padded cases. 

** I went off with Gosse to his private room, where we 
had a very interesting talk — about books, letter-writing, 
authors, his new book and a dozen other matters. That 
dark room, with its mullions and the glow of the electric 
lights on the shining red leather chairs and sofas with 
their gold portcullises, will long remain with me. He 
took me down to see the library vaults — such a mass of 
rubbishy books. . . . 

" Then I went to see Murray, but found him out; 
had my hair cut by my literary barber, who discussed the 
Queen's letters with me. Back, walking, to the National 
Club, where I had tea, wrote letters, finished off 
proofs; and from there / sent off the last proofs of the 
Queen s Letters. A little river-wrack, so to speak, of 
individual pages will return to me — but the book is now 
doner 

" Skelwithfold^ October 3. — Woke to much wretched- 
ness of nerves, agitated and unhappy; but this cleared off 
when I got up. It was a fine, soft, sunny day. ... At 
12.30 walked down to the gates, and found the Hays 

176 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1907 

waiting in a smart blue motor. ... It was pleasant 
whisking along the steep, leafy lanes, with fine views 
flashing out every minute. We got into a road parallel 
with Coniston lake, and were soon at Brantwood. It is 
now a very big, pleasant, irregular house, of white 
rough-cast, ingeniously contrived to climb the hill, with 
a roadway taken under a fine simple arch at the back. 
It reminded me very much of Tan. The idea of a big 
luncheon-party was oppressive, but I ended by really 
liking it. Mr. A. Severn came out to meet us, a hand- 
some, rather whimsical, amiable, leisurely man. . . . 
Dear Mrs. Severn, stout, fuzzy-haired, kindly, with a 
motherly smile. We had a big and long lunch. . . . 

" Then I had a beautiful hour. Mrs. Severn took 
me ever}'where. I saw Ruskin's study, with the chair 
and the round window looking out over the lake, where he 
sate, his writing-table, his presses and bookcases of 
mahogany — the things all solid and not a bit artistic. 
Here was the Richmond portrait, and a very little, most 
interesting water-colour of him by himself. I took down 
many of his MSS. — and she showed me a book in which 
he collected Greek mottoes for the days of the year. I 
found on my own birthday the motto, euv yap koi iropevOw* 
— I don't recognise it — but it had a very beautiful 
significance for me in my present mood, like a word out 
or a wise and fatherly heart, bidding me journey on. 
Then to the drawing-room, with some fine drawings of 
his own. Then upstairs to his first bedroom, with the little 
octagonal turret, by which he could see the view all 
round, and then to the little plain room where he died 
— his mahogany bed, ugly white paper, bookshelves, 
and the walls hung with priceless Turners, with the 
W. Hunt picture of grapes in the centre, and a funny 
sketch by Ruskin p^re. Mrs. Severn told me how he died, 
sitting up in bed; two days before he had been perfectly 
well. She cried a little as she told the tale. . . . 

*' Then I strolled alone, through copses and lawns, 
and out on a grassy terrace with a noble view of the lake 
and the great cirque of mountains. I was glad to be 

• From the Sep tuagint, Psalm xxiii, 4: "Yea, though I walk ..." 
M 177 



1907] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

alone. The whole place incredibly beautiful; the sun 
just touching the ^reat flanks of the hill with gold. . . . 
Ruskin lived here for the last twelve years without ever 
leaving it. 

" Mrs. Severn came out to find me; we went back, 
saw J.H. manoeuvre the motor with a sense that it was 
the only thing worth doing; and then came kind farewells, 
and we whisked off. . . . 

" It has been for me a very sacred and beautiful 
pilgrimage indeed, coming in this overshadowed time — 
and I shall long remember the house, and the hazy hills 
across the lake in the warm soft sunny afternoon. . . . 
I rank to-day among the memorable days of my life; and 
I was glad that for the time being I was in perceptive 
spirits, and not overtroubled by my little miseries. I 
suppose I am better than I feel ; but in this soft air I seem 
to be invincibly languid — iuv yap koI TropevOw.'" 



178 



VII 

I908-I909 

He remained under the burden of his depression for 
nearly two years more. During all that time, though 
company and occupation could bring an intermittent 
relief, there was no day on which his mind was free 
from the torment of his malady. It was difficult for 
those who saw him, talked to him, travelled with him 
while he was in this condition to understand what he 
was enduring; often there seemed to be little amiss 
with him, in body or in spirit, and he might appear to 
be only more pensive, less gaily interested in the world 
than usual. His diary, which throughout this attack 
he still continued to keep, is a strange revelation of the 
dark fears and agonising pains that were concealed, 
with much considerate fortitude, from all but a few 
of his most intimate friends. Even they, perhaps, 
may hardly have suspected how dire his sufferings 
were, and how perpetual; yet the truth of his account of 
them is attested by the eagerness with which he records 
from time to time a more hopeful day, a few hours 
of ease, some distraction that he was able to enjoy. 
It was an affliction that changed and varied from 
one moment to another like a physical pain, now 
lighter for a space, now heavier, now sharp to the 
limit of endurance, and its caprices appeared always 
unaccountable. 

Divers methods of treatment were tried, under the 
advice of Dr. Ross Todd — travel, idle country-life, 
seclusion and rest in a nursing-home; but at length it 

179 



1908-9] THE DIARY OF 

was judged best that he should return to Cambridge 
and to so much of his normal occupation there as he 
could force himself to undertake. And so in the 
autumn of 1908, after a summer spent mainly at 
TremanSj he took up his abode in the Old Lodge at 
Magdalene, and made a gallant attempt, not without 
success, to carry out his usual engagements. But 
there was still another year of the same distress to 
be endured before he began to be conscious of any 
lasting relief; and meanwhile he daily believed himself 
to be on the brink of disaster — not death indeed, for 
which he fervently prayed, but madness. There was 
in fact at no time any real cause for such a fear; but he 
could never be reassured, and hundreds of pages in his 
diary are filled with the record of deepening and dark- 
ening apprehension. At last, towards the end of 1 909, 
the cloud began to lift, the misery strangely and 
swiftly to abate; and within a few weeks he had 
passed from utter despair to the full height of his 
customary vigour and happiness. His recovery was 
almost as sudden as it was complete, and to himself the 
ending of these long woes seemed no less mysterious 
and inexplicable than their beginning. 

There is little to be quoted from the volumes of the 
diary in which the tale of distress is followed from 
day to day. For most of the time, at Tremans, at 
Cambridge, or in the company of a friend at some 
country-inn, his outer life went forward much as usual; 
but he could only write of it with the constant iteration 
of his lament that all was pain and darkness within. 
Those who have suffered the visitation of this form of 
neurasthenia will understand, I suppose, the nature of 
the ache which gnawed at his mind; to those who have 
not it can never be made intelligible by description. 
The period covered by the anguished chronicle shall 
accordingly be passed over very speedily, with a pause 
upon two days only — two days on which it happened 
that his trouble was lightened for a while. Such days 
there were now and then, always noted and recalled 
with gratitude in the diary, but the peculiar experience 

180 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1908 

described in the first of the following extracts was not 
to be repeated for many months. 

" Tremans, December 21, 1908. — I came down rather 
nervous and jumpy, but really felt somewhat better. I 
read a book, The Shadoivs of Lije^ by A. D. Sedgwick; 
but these books of emotion and the sufferings of different 
temperaments, good and evil alike, harrow me fearfully. 
Can the people who write about suffering have ever really 
suffered? — with the long-drawn desperate suffering in 
which I have spent this year-f* It seems all too bad to 
write about. ... I wrote a lot of letters and walked with 
M.B. — unpacked my burden somewhat, not morbidly, 
but pensively. . . . What I can't bear is to be told 
that I am behaving ' splendidly.' My sense of decency 
and courtesy has just enabled me to hold on, but I have 
been a horrible coward all through, and a selfish one as 
well. Hugh came to lunch, very full of life and spirits, 
and his account of his doings made me writhe at the 
thought of my futility. We walked out in a damp, warm 
mist, and argued furiously about religion and science as 
usual. . . . Then after tea — rather a limp meal — I went 
off to try and write, expecting my usual collapse. To my 
surprise and joy and intense relief I found myself, 
instead, flooded by a sense of happiness and contentment. 
I can't say or describe the blessedness of the hour. It 
may only be a little variation of my wretched state; but I 
found my serenity, my interest, my enjoyment suddenly 
and miraculously restored. I felt like a convalescent, 
too happy even to write. I just sate in a blessed peace of 
mind. Of course it won't continue thus — but can it 
possibly be the turn of the tide? I dare not think it; 
but I do thank God with all my heart and soul for 
withdrawing the dreadful cloud from my brain, and 
allowing me to live again for a little. ... I won't 
dare to anticipate. I only record that to-night, for 
the first time for months, a ray of real hope has 
darted into my darkness; and I will try to grope my 
way out, not forgetting the days of my imprisonment 
and despair." 

181 



1909] THE DIARY OF 

This promise of hope was not yet to be fulfilled; but 
he was occasionally able to find some enjoyment in a 
country excursion, with his motor-car and a friend, 
and his exploration of the English landscape was 
continued in many regions, to the west and the north. 
After the visit to Italy, already mentioned, he went no 
more abroad. In Rome and Florence he had been 
diligent in sight-seeing, not without interest, but he 
never again had the least inclination towards any scene 
more exotic than Dunster or Broadway, Ashbourne or 
Settle; these and their like were to satisfy him for the 
rest of his life. 

''Ludlow, June 7, 1909. — A good night; woke cheerful. 
A long and enthusiastic letter from Marie Corelli. To 
Bridgnorth, by the Clee Hills. A pretty town, with a 
leaning fragment of castle. Two churches ; both the upper 
town, sitting on its steep ridge, and the lower town across 
the Severn are picturesque. . . . Then on to Wenlock 
— a beautiful ruined abbey in a kind of wild garden, 
with a wonderfully picturesque house at the side. The 
garden was beautifully kept, and the place lovely; but I 
don't really like a ruin — there is something of the corpse, 
of the skeleton about it, a sense of death. ... So by 
Craven Arms, and saw Stokesay Castle on the right, 
charmingly picturesque and sedate, over its orchards. 
The whole day was sunny and sweet, the air fresh and 
fragrant, and I had a faint sense of enjoyment and peace. 
After tea the indefatigable Ainger proposed a stroll, and 
we went to the Castle — saw the roofless hall where 
Comus was acted, and many noble ruinous chambers. 
As we went out a flock of sheep, who had been grazing in 
the grassy court, were driven out by a shepherd-boy, 
and made a pretty scene. In the evening I was tired, but 
cheerful. Ainger is a delightful companion, so quietly 
kind and fatherly. I like being commandeered by him, 
and love to see the diplomatic way in which he does what 
he likes best (not that I have any counter-preferences) 
under the impression that he is consulting my wishes all 
the time. . . . He never makes any allusion to my being 

182 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1909 

ill, but takes for granted I am well and happy. In fact 
mine is a mysterious state; I eat and sleep, look well, can 
do most thintrs without fatigue, but all the time carry 
about this awtul dragging weight on my mind. A quiet 
evening, and I slept well. 

*' A very touching and affectionate letter from Howard 
Sturgis, and another from Henr)- James. Yet they but 
serve as fuel to the flame of my sadness. I seem to have 
missed all the best things of life, by my miserable 
self-absorption and perverse indolence." 

The months still dragged on in unhappiness, and 
when he returned to Cambridge for the Michaelmas 
term, his mood was as dark as it had ever been. In 
October he opened a fresh volume of his record with 
some messages of gratitude to his friends, " as this will 
be, I cannot help thinking, the last volume I shall ever 
complete of my diary." Within a month the change 
had begun. At the end of the year he spent some days 
at Tenby, with Ainger and Mr. and Mrs. Edmund 
Gosse, and he was then able to admit, to them and to 
himself, that he was well. Some sixty or seventy 
volumes of his diary were still to be completed, before 
it was finally closed. 



83 



VIII 

I9I0 

And so, with joy and energy redoubled, he took up 
all the activities of his life again at the point where they 
had been interrupted by his illness; he gathered the 
threads together without losing another moment, and 
was immediately as deep in his various occupations, 
as busy and harried and hustled as he had ever been 
and as he loved to be. His diary through it all is still 
copious; but it becom.es from this time forward 
increasingly difficult to give an adequate picture of his 
days by means of selection and quotation from the 
row of grey volumes. Discretion, no doubt, begins to 
hold the editor's hand more pressingly; though as to 
that, and to the nature of Arthur Benson's freedom of 
criticism in his diary (which by this time was kept in 
much greater privacy than of old), there will be more 
to say on a later page. But the hastiness, the breath- 
lessness of the pace at which it was always written, 
with many a scene of interest too slightly and sum- 
marily touched on for effect; and the large space occu- 
pied, naturally enough, by local affairs, college business, 
academic transactions, from which the freshness of 
their importance has long departed; and the inevitable 
repetitions, day by day, in the record of a life so 
straitly confined to its regular round: all this must mean 
that his later work at Cambridge, during the years 
when it was at its height of felicity and success, can 
only in part be illustrated from his own pages. And 
for that reason some brief account of the tenor of his 

184 







—I < 
2 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

life at Magdalene — ^which was hardly to be changed 
henceforward, while he kept his health — may be given 
in this place. 

The Old Lodge, when he took possession of it, was 
a modest, some might have said an inconvenient and 
a cheerless dwelling, with its unsunned rooms and 
shrubbery-smothered windows, shaken to its founda- 
tions every hour by the omnibus that thundered down 
the narrow street. But to Arthur Benson his own 
belongings were always admirable, and the Old Lodge 
pleased him from the first as a " stately little mansion " 
— his favourite phrase for any house that took his 
fancy. He proceeded to embellish and enlarge it in 
accordance with his highly eclectic taste. He was able 
before long to acquire some adjoining tenements, and 
with much ingenuity in adapting, contriving, adjust- 
ing, he finally produced a house for which he claimed, 
not unreasonably, a surpassing merit. It was at any 
rate a house that could have been devised, and perhaps 
inhabited, by none but himself. It had a great room 
like a college hall, with a gallery and a high-table; it 
had a tiny cloister-court, choked to the throat by a 
jungle of giant-hemlocks; it had an outlying congeries 
of small sitting-rooms, largely unvisited; it had a 
walled patch of garden, in which there were no flowers, 
only a grove of sycamores and a thorn-thicket. His 
own rooms were on the ground floor, facing the north, 
with a mass of lank dank bushes pressing almost 
against the window-panes. The inner decoration of 
the house was not less original than its design. He 
took a lively pleasure in its appointment and adorn- 
ment, he invented and directed every detail; he filled 
the whole of the available space with a singular dis- 
play of personal relics, scraps, mementoes of his past, 
the accumulation of many years ; and he surveyed it all, 
when it was finished, with amusement, with com- 
placency — and also, lastly and chiefly, with complete 
indifference. His possessions, well as he liked them, 
warmly as he commended them, had in fact no hold 
on him whatever. 

185 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

The visitor, entering his crowded and book-lined 
little study, found him seated in an armchair by the 
window, a writing-board on his knees, hurling his 
letters as he finished them into the post-tray by his side. 
Here, unless business called him forth, he spent the 
morning. A colleague might drop in to ask a 
question, an undergraduate would appear with an essay 
to be read and criticised, or perhaps a casual caller, 
little suspecting how he would presently be chastised 
in the diary, might present himself unannounced; but 
the master of the house remained in his armchair, 
falling again upon his correspondence after each 
interruption, never pausing or hesitating, covering 
page after page with his free and agile script. Nothing 
could persuade him to reduce this daily labour, a great 
part of which was purely gratuitous, required of him 
neither by friendship nor by duty. For when he had 
written gay and talkative effusions to several friends, 
replied in generous measure to a dozen unknown 
admirers, despatched all the business entailed by his 
multifarious occupations; when he had answered all 
the answers to previous letters of his own; when he had 
lavished his best on friendly testimonials, recommen- 
dations for preferment, offices of all manner of kind- 
ness (he was unwearied in these things, and admir- 
able in tact and wisdom); still he would bethink him 
of yet other calls, other openings for more letters that 
might and should be written, and that were written 
there and then — so impossible he found it to detect a 
reason for writing and not to write. More than once 
he tried to learn how to use the services of a secretary, 
but in vain — he liked the use of his own hand too 
well. Wherever he went, through all his so-called 
holidays, he carried the chain of his correspondence 
with him; he would never admit that he hugged it 
with enjoyment, but that was the fact. 

At one o'clock, still writing for dear life, he was sur- 
prised by his luncheon-party. This was an event of 
the utmost regularity. On every day, very nearly, of 
the term, throughout the years of his residence at 

i86 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

Magdalene, two or three undergraduates of the 
college were bidden to lunch ; all had their turn, all were 
plied with his sociable genial unfailing talk; and the 
record of the diary — in which the manner and habit of 
his guests is perpetually noted — is there to prove how 
seldom they were plied in vain. The young men were 
most friendly, most conversable, most delightful ; their 
host has said so innumerable times, and it is easy to 
believe him. Few people, young or old, ever left 
Arthur Benson's table without a modest consciousness 
of having been a little more delightful than usual. In 
this way he made at least the acquaintance of every 
undergraduate who passed through Magdalene in his 
time, and a real friendship with very many; and since 
the college was now, under Donaldson's reign, steadily 
and rapidly growing in numbers, it was not a light task 
to keep abreast with the stream of newcomers. His 
pleasure in it was increased by discovering a special 
young friend and companion among them from time 
to time; one who was both to him in these years, 
George Mallory, has been seen already, and others 
will be encountered before long. It was naturally 
Magdalene that occupied him first, but his circle 
was always widening, and chosen spirits from other 
colleges often appeared in it. 

The party knew better than to linger when the hour 
was over. Whatever the season or the weather, in the 
dust or in the mire, in the blaze or in the blast, their 
host must be off at the appointed moment for air and 
exercise upon the road. He took a friend with him or 
he went alone, he walked or he bicycled; in any case the 
excursion must exactly fill the afternoon. If the east 
wind blows and it begins to rain miserably, and you 
happen to be near home at half past three, still you 
must turn away and take a further round, or you will 
find yourself indoors before tea-time. If it is a 
perfect evening of summer, and the shadows are falling 
cool and fragrant between the hedges after the glaring 
day, still you must leave them and hurry home, for at 
half past four he must be sitting down to write his 

187 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

chapter. These rules were absolute; his companion 
might raise a cry for a little more or a little less, but 
never with any hope that the concession would be 
granted. In due course he is seated in his dark little 
room, his back turned to the radiance of the evening, 
the golden light upon the college lawns, the glow on 
the old mellow roofs and turrets above the orchard 
by the river; and of just such a scene, very likely, he is 
writing a page of charming description, but the whole 
summer passes without once tempting him forth to 
see it with his eyes. Cambridge or the depths of 
the country, term or vacation, it was all one. He had 
the deepest and truest delight in all the beauty of 
nature, for just two hours of the afternoon; he could 
seldom be persuaded at any other time to give it a 
glance. 

Meanwhile the pencil was racing from page to 
page, the sheets were accumulating. At the last 
possible moment before the dinner-hour they were 
bundled together, crammed into an envelope and 
despatched to the typist. If he had left himself five 
minutes in which to make his toilet, he was ready in 
time to sit down at his organ and improvise a slow 
sweet dirge-like strain before the college-bell rang out. 
Then in his great bellying silk gown he stepped forth, 
passed through the court — (tall and immense in his 
great gown, rubbing his clasped hands together, 
breathing gustily, his head bent forward as he moves 
with that curious pad-footed prowling walk, as though 
he were threading a jungle) — he crossed the college- 
court, smiling a greeting at a cluster of undergraduates, 
and arrived, a little late, to take his place at the high- 
table in hall. And then after dinner there was a session 
of the company in the panelled combination-room 
upstairs; and over port-wine and coffee, a pinch of 
snuff and a cigarette, there was an hour of the best of 
his talk — not over-serious, not tyrannous, never local or 
professional — the perfection of conversation after a 
comfortable dinner. But he had had enough of it 
when the party broke up; and then he liked to go 

i88 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

home and work a little in solitude, even read a little — 
though in general he read books only in bed, during his 
frequent wakeful nights, devouring a volume or two 
till sleep returned. Lastly, to close the best kind of 
day at a late hour, a friend or two should drop in for a 
game of cards. 

That was the day he preferred, the typical day; and 
save that he constantly dined out, in other colleges and 
at many a house of friends, it was a day that he had 
enjoyed repeatedly since his settlement at Cambridge. 
He enjoyed the like of it as often as he might to the 
end. But as it now became known that he was in 
health and at work again, his engagements outside the 
college began to increase rapidly. He took or resumed 
his place on several educational commiittees and 
boards in Cambridge town and county, and his week 
was once more sprinkled with meetings faithfully 
attended. Before his illness he had already been 
nominated a Governor of Gresham School at Holt, in 
Norfolk; and this appointment was the beginning of 
his long and close association with the City Company 
of Fishmongers, by whom the school is maintained. 
Within a year of his recovery he was elected to the 
Court of the Company, much to his gratification, and 
thenceforward a " Fishmonger day " in London was a 
very regular and frequent occurrence. And now, as 
before, invitations to lecture, give addresses, distribute 
prizes, came to him from all parts of the countr)^, 
and were freely accepted. His pleasure in all these 
activities was doubled and trebled as he discovered 
that he could undertake them as easily as ever. 

Above all he was delighted to resume, with zest 
undiminished, his many schemes for the adornment and 
benefit of Magdalene; whether by a gift of portraits 
for the gallery, hangings for the chapel, armorial 
windows tor the hall and the like — or less conspicuously, 
by help conveyed to undergraduates, in the form of 
unofficial scholarships and bursaries, to the advantage 
of themselves and the college. For such purposes 
his hand was always open, and he was not only 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

lavish, he was ingenious and versatile in generosity. 
He was proud of Magdalene's waxing renown 
in the university and the public schools — proud, 
too, of the harmony and concord of the college within; 
to both he contributed with all his influence. And 
here let the members of the society of Magdalene in 
those years be named by name in order. The Master, 
Stuart Donaldson, we already know; and next to him 
came the President, Mr. A. G. Peskett, and to him the 
Bursar, Mr. A. S. Ramsey. The Fellows next in 
seniority were Mr. S. Vernon Jones, Benson himself, 
Professor Nuttall, and Mr. T. Peel. Mr. Stephen 
Gaselee, Pepysian Librarian, and Mr. F. R. Salter 
completed the list; and where all were Arthur Benson's 
friends, it may be said that the last two especially were 
close in his company and intimacy in these and all the 
later years. This was the " domus," the fellowship 
and ruling body of the college. The dinner-parties in 
hall were augmented by other associates, " members 
of the high-table "; among whom Father P. N. 
Waggett, resident at this time in Cambridge, should in 
particular be mentioned as a frequent and welcome 
presence in the grey volumes. 

One other friend must be named, and his name set 
here in a line by itself: Jesse Hunting, who with his 
wife had entered Arthur Benson's service when he 
settled at Cambridge in 1904 — who never left him, 
never failed him in devoted and untiring attention, 
and was with him at the end. There was no firmer 
tie of friendship than this in Benson's life; he trusted 
and honoured and relied on Hunting from the first 
day to the last of their long association. No one who 
remembers the Old Lodge can ever think of it without 
joining gratefully in the admiration and affection that 
its master felt for this man. 

So much for Magdalene and the term. The 
vacations were yet more regular in their sameness year 
by year, for scarcely a variation was ever made from the 
now established round. Hinton had been abandoned 
when he fell ill. He now went from Cambridge to 

190 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

Tremans; from Tremans to the " Lamb " or the 
** King's Arms " or the " Feathers," where he has so 
often been seen already; from thence to his cousins 
at Skelwithfold by Windermere; and from thence 
again to Cambridge. The order of these move- 
ments might be changed, but nothing else. It was 
the rarest of events if he slept a night under another 
roof. 

It only remains to be said that in 19 10 he published 
The Silent Isle — sketches of the fen-country, which he 
had written at Hinton^— and was engaged on the 
biographical studies which appeared in the following 
year as The Leaves oj the Tree, He also wrote 
and delivered at Magdalene the lectures afterwards 
published in the volume called Ruskin: a Study in 
Personality. 

" January 24, 19 10. — A letter from Gosse, deploring 
his idleness; he is entirely silent as to my own illness. 
Maurice Baring went off; it has been delightful to have 
him here. I felt well and cheerful. Snow fell. Hore 
came with me to Wimpole, and we walked in the frozen 
avenues; a funeral at the church. He entertained me 
with ingenuous talk about the college — a charming 
boy. 

" Then I wrote; and went to a musical committee at 
King's. . . . Then went off with S.A.D. to dine with 
Waggett. He has taken the pretty old house at 
Newnham, once Harr)' Goodhart's, and has an assemblage 
of young High Church men there. It is a quaint house; 
he has a chapel, with a fine Sassoferrato, and an oratory 
with nice Sienese pictures. His own room full of books, 
deal tables, crucifixes. I am told he is rather inclined 
to break down in nerves. There was a big gatherino^, 
rather obscure young clerics, and laymen, with that odd, 
bright, ecclesiastical smile which means so little. A 
huge party at dinner. ... I liked the old ecclesiastical 
feeling — it reminded me of Truro — the mild and godly 
mirth, the general submissiveness of tone. I know 
exactly what to do and say. . . . 

191 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

" Then we adjourned to a little bare room, and pious 

undergraduates came in. Father made a long 

rambling speech about a mission somewhere. The two 
things he said were important were: (i) to conciliate the 
natives; (2) to hold one's own against other denomina- 
tions. That was a Christian programme. Waggett 
spoke very well, dwelling on the almost Greek beauty of 
the Kaffirs, and their primitive joy in church things. A 
long story, called a * very sad * one, was told of a young 
chief excommunicated for polygamy. I felt a mixture 
of admiration, bewilderment and hopeless disgust at the 
frame of mind of these missionaries. But it was an 
interesting evening. I should not like much of it, 
but a little gives me back the old days, and the air of 
religion." 

" May 20. — The day quite lovely. The papers 
are now absolutely unreadable, one idiotic gush of false 
sentiment and fatuous panegyric* One hunts through 
for a few words of sense or fact, and reads an obituary 
notice of someone else with relief. . . . What a proof it 
all is that we don't any of us really believe in personal 
immortality. If we did, all this ghastly humbug, which 
must be as distasteful to the poor man, if he is conscious, 
as it is to me, v/ould be impossible. With what face 
should we meet the dear ones about whom we had lied so 
effusively and gushed so hypocritically.? It is all very 
disgusting. 

" The place is quiet; half the college has gone to the 
funeral. The garden is delicious, especially the great 
burst of speedwell, just where the path under the bastion 
turns up to the arbour. That is the ' liquid heavens 
upbreaking ' if you like — not hyacinths. The whole of 
that bank, deep in grass, colour inextricably intertwined, 
is beautiful beyond words — the mass, the variety, the 
richness, the sweetness of it all. How one has the heart 
to paint or write, I don't know. . . . 

" I can forgive to-day its heat for being so golden- 
sweet, so summer-scented. In the afternoon we motored 
out to Harlton, through fragrant air, the fields golden 

* Death of King Edward VII. 
192 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

with buttercups. Everything has come out with a wild 
rush of leaf and bloom. Here we left the car and 
struck up from Eversden by the old clunch-pit into 
the Mareway. The landscape dcliciously hazy; the 
Mareway itself held the rain of yesterday in its oozy 
ruts, and we mainly walked in breezy fields to left 
and right, with lovely silent views of wide champaign 
country, and by the corners of secluded woods. Then 
down through Wimpole and along the great avenue. 
P. entertained me much by sketches of Anglo- Venetian 
life. ... 

" The great house blinked down the vast avenue, and 
we walked among cowslips and meadow-grass. It is a 
holiday to-day, and the roads are full of tall-hatted 
rustics and girls in mourning, enjoying themselves with 
infinite solemnity. 

" "VVe got back late; and I had a note from Cooke to 
say he would bring a dentist at 6.0. A young, shy, 
pleasant man appeared, and produced probes and a horrid 
forceps. . . . Five useless attempts, and each attempt was 
more painful — but wholesome pain, not sickening, nasty 
pain like dressing a wound. At last the vile claw got 
hold. ... I really think that Cooke suffered more than I 
did. I smoked cigarettes and wrote contentedly at my 
Ruskin, dining alone, while P. went out. It is an odd 
combination of nerve and no nerve. I am naturally very 
timid and sensitive, but I don't really think I feel much 
pain; and I didn't really mind being escorted to my 
bedroom by the torturers. But it is very hard to see 
the point of all this petty and undignified pain; I am a 
ludicrous object, I don't learn any patience or courage, my 
pleasant work is interrupted. On the other hand I am 
sustained by a quite unreasonable cheerfulness and enjoy- 
ment of life. I don't see the bearing of it all on what is or 
may be. ..." 

'* May 28. — I had arranged to go out with M.RJ., 
but P.L. and Oliffe Richmond ousted me, and they 
arranged to start early and return late. I was rather 
vexed; they don't see how rude it is, nor does Monty. 

193 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

When I remonstrated, they only said gleefully, ' You 
wouldn't fall in with any of the arrangements.' I wrote 
and taught. Then walked with Mallory across the fen 
from Upware to Swaffham; very beautiful, but grey and 
clouded. I tried to explain to Mallory that all poets are 
really saying the same thing; the style, the metre, the 
subject, don't matter — it is the wonder of things beautiful 
they express. He would not see it and disputed it 
flatly. 

" I wrote an account of Roosevelt for the College 
Magazine. Then we got Rupert Brooke to come to 
dine. He was very handsome and very charming, and 
talked away freely. The beloved Salter also came, and 
made us all cheerful." 

** May 29. — I hate Sunday; there is a constraint about 
it, and it is too desperately sociable for my taste. I 
played the organ in chapel with some pleasure. Rendall 
of Winchester* preached, a long, vague sermon, full of 
points, badly and stiffly delivered. He said that 
Pharisaism did not exist among undergraduates! It 
is rampant. At no age do men judge so harshly or 
disapprove so unreasonably or are so complacent about 
themselves. He said too that it was a shame that the 
fine old word ' sport ' should be so much vitiated by 
money transactions — ' How unlike the Sermon on the 
Mount ' — as if Christ approved of horse-racing and 
disapproved of betting! Both alike are entirely contrary 
to Christ's spirit. ..." 

" Norwich, June 5. — I resisted Ainger's suggestion to 
have a walk before Cathedral. We went to service, and 
were given stalls. The cathedral choir dark and dank and 
airless, and curiously lacking in any sense of ecclesiastical 
tradition. . . . The Dean looked jolly enough, but 
he had a wandering and restless eye, in search of 
distraction. A feeble hon. canon by him, who had a 
tendency, in procession, to wander off up gangways, and 
was much poked and pulled by the Dean ... It was 
pretty before service began to see two little blue- 

* Dr. M. J. Rendall, Headmaster of Winchester. 
194 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

cassocked choir-boys in the Dean's stall, finding his places. 
The usual collection of dreary and pompous old fogies, 
retired parsons, tradesmen, lawyers, in the stalls, snuff- 
ling and screeching. The sermon most dreary; had 

a voice like Nixon, and preached on religious persecution, 
which he seemed to wish could be restored as a guiding 
force (text: ' Compel them to come in.') He said with 
joy that St. Augustine recommended the use of the civil 
power to punish faithless or heretic Christians. His 
argument was that the heathen were wrong to persecute 
Christians, because the Christians were right and the 
heathen were wrong; but the Christians, being right, 
would do well to persecute the heathen, though he 
deprecated excessive torture. It was a dreadful 
performance, emanating from a mind in prison. . . . 

" Then the indefatigable Ainger walked in the town. 
Then we went to the Palace; the approach to the gate 
grass-grown and ill-kept; no porter to answer the crazy 
bell. (Such a fine gatehouse, with a figure in a niche.) 
The garden very sweet, with its great trees and sunny 
lawns, and the cathedral rising over. But it is a deplor- 
able building, by Christian the architect — rubble flint 
with brick facings, like a great ugly hospital. The 
Bishop* strolled down to meet us, in a panama hat, looking 
very youthful, and glad to see us in a quiet, welcoming 
self-possessed way. The house in frantic disorder, the 
boards up for electric light; a great hole in the wall, in the 
hall, showing a fine cr)'pt. No carpets or curtains, and the 
furniture piled up in the rooms. We lunched in a dirty 
little room — a good cold lunch, with a claret incredibly 
strong. . . . The Bishop talked a good deal about all sorts of 
things, sensibly and even humorously; but what I like 
best is his self-possession and unaffected kindness. He 
took us all over the house. The dining-room is awful, 
very large, like a restaurant — hideous, chocolate-washed 
walls, marble pillars, pitch-pine roof. No portraits to 
speak of. The drawing-room on the third floor, with 
some character. ... A grand vaulted kitchen, with a 

• Dr. Bertram Pollock, Bishop of Norwich, formerly Master of Wellington 
College, 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

beautiful, red-haired kitchen-maid. The Bishop went to 
cathedral, attended by verger and chaplain and a pretty 
choir-boy to whom he talked delightfully as he went. 
Then we went for a dreary walk in the heat, along 
suburban roads. . . . 

" I find myself rather longing for pomps and vanities, 
and more important work. But, after all, I am in 
Cambridge, with a lay canonry, teaching-work to do, 
a college to help and serve, time for writing, and 
with wealth in abundance. How mean to want more 
state and fuss! — and I know too how I should hate 
it. I have got exactly what I want, yet I am 
discontented. 

" I came back tired, after a hard day of talk and 
entertainment. ... A very bad and wakeful night 
of the worst kind." 

"Magdalene^ June 28. — Much bothered by callers. 
. . . Found Inge,* and walked with him down the river 
to Waterbeach. He was rather lively; much interested 
in the Divorce Commission. ... It does really seem to 
me ridiculous to base legislation on a chance saying of 
Christ in the Gospel — not a dictum, but an answer to a 
question — and on another saying of St. Paul, which 
admits religious differences as a reason for divorce! 
What a hopeless nation we are for precedents! . . . 

** Tea, and wrote. I am rather melancholy to-day, 
not disabled by it, but overshadowed. I seem to be 
very idle and self-centred, and to have no particular work. 
I see my contemporaries, one by one, taking up respon- 
sible work; and I have refused very responsible work, 
from a genuine diffidence, not unmingled, I suppose, 
with laziness and want of moral stamina. Now I seem 
firmly on the shelf. I have plenty to do, but it is all 
scrappy and feeble. . . . My easy and genteel philosophy 
does not help me much now. I might be offered this 
new Professorship. t If S.A.D. were promoted I might be 

* Dr. W. R. Inge, Dean of St. Paul's, at this time Lady Margaret Professor of 
Divinity at Cambridge. 

f The recently-founded King Edward VII Professorship of'English Literature 
at Cambridge. 

196 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

Master here. Either of these, I think, 1 could do. But 
I am sadly conscious of vagueness, cowardice, idleness, 
meanness, baseness, self-indulgence and other ugly- 
things. I want the honour without the work. I have a 
very vulgar and shallow soul, but I don't see how to 
mend that. . . . Yet I have a fliith both that it doth not 
yet appear what we shall be — and that the end is not yet. 
" This evening I have been reading the life of William 
Morris, with envious admiration of a man who knew 
what he meant to do, and what he had to do, and did 
it. . . . " 

" Tremans, September 20. — In the afternoon came 
Mrs. Cornish,* in her most expansive mood; every word 
as good as a play, with tremendous emphasis, and with an 
intense desire to do justice to interlocutors. But, alas, 
the shadow of age falls — she cannot attend. . . . Still she 
gives me a sense of intense appreciation of life, and of 
well-bred enthusiasm, which is very refreshing. ..." 

" September 1 1 . — I had a long, vague stroll with Mrs. 
Cornish by the dove-cote and farm, in golden sun — she 
hobbling in little tight, high-heeled shoes. . . . She talked 
to me much about marriage — about Leslie Stephen, how 
he once took her hand and kissed it, when she put coals 
on his fire. * All the things that women like and value 
he did by instinct,' she said. I was puzzled — I suppose 
a kind of ritual of worship? She said that it was possible 
for women to go on bearing a man charming children, 
and yet never to have a word of tenderness from him. 
She said that I made the mistake, like many clever men, 
of thinking marriage too transcendental a thing. ' It's 
not transcendental at all! ' — and she told me the story of 

a Miss , who, when marriage was mentioned, cried 

out in a mixed party, ' I would marry any man who 
asked me.' But I fear it would be transcendental with 
me: [I mean] that I should so get to detest the ways and 
the physical presence of anyone with whom I lived — 
unless it were a simply negative clean comeliness — that I 

• Mrs. F. W. Warre-Comish, wife of the Vice-Provost of Eton. 
197 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

should be obsessed by it, unless saved by a very high 
sort of passion. 

" But it was very nice to have this talk. She is a 
clever, feeling, experienced woman; she arrays her 
thoughts a little — but it is all original and fine. I talked 
a little Socialism to her; she didn't understand. ..." 

** Skelwithfold, September 29. — P.L. wrote me an 
interesting letter about Robert Bridges, with whom he 
stayed. In compliment of this I read the Shorter Poems. 
They seem to me thinner than of old, with little more 
than an Elizabethan trick of language — but a pleasant 
trick! No criticism on life. How priggish that 
sounds — but it is what I want just now. Life seems to 
me not good enough just to go on with and dabble in from 
day to day, only interesting as leading on to something. 
I don't mean that life is boring; but it is so much less 
nice than it ought to be, and it is so easy to get tangled, 
that there must be some reason for it all — and that is 
what I want to get at. A person who is content with 
life is to me uninteresting, because it only means that he 
has not experienced life. 

"I got off at I i.o, and to my joy found Spencer Lyttel ton 
at the L.N.W.R.; we fared to Bletchley together. 
He imparted to me a great store of interesting and un- 
important knowledge. . . . The time passed pleasantly, 
and perhaps the reason why I can't remember much of 
what S.L. said is because I talked so much myself. 
We arranged for a winter trip together, and parted 
with more than goodwill. He is now such a hand- 
some, upright fellow — how can he dangle about as he 
does? 

" Then followed a long, dull journey; changed at 
Preston and walked a mile on the vast platform; very 
dizzy. I read and reflected a good deal, but the train 
ran ill and rolled. So to Windermere by 7.12. A little 
carriage waiting — car broken down — and I drove 
through the soft warm night beside the lake, with the 
gleam of pale waters, dark headlands, moonrifts in inky 
cloud-banks, hills that moved slowly as we moved, tangled 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

constellations hanging in forest spaces, bright stars 
racing through tree-tops; the scent of the warm 
woodlands very sweet. ..." 

** MagJa/ene, December "]. — . . . I dined in Hall; it 
was noisy and dull. Roy Lubbock was there, Percy's 
brother, trying for a scholarship at King's; very like the 
rest of them, tall, pale, languid-looking, but a very quiet 
simple, nice friendly boy. I talked mostly to Salter. 
Then came a smoking-concert, not bad fun. I liked the 
look of hall, and all the neat jolly boys, with their funny 
ways; one was to walk round and to get everyone to 
sign programmes. There was a topical song, very heavy 
mirth. They made jokes about me of a harmless kind, 
but I couldn't raise a laugh. Undergraduates have a 
deep desire to amuse. I suppose it is that they want to 
impress. You can't see when people are seriously im- 
pressed, but you can see them laugh. But while they 
have a gift for being ingenious, their jokes are very 
heav)'-handed, and generally entail discomfort for the 
victim. But there was an intense desire to do nothing 
unfriendly or wounding, and the whole thing was 
very amicable. . . . The great Winterbotham came 
up and sate by me a little and talked pleasantly; I am 
much drawn to this wholesome, handsome, natural 
creature. . . . 

" What amuses me now is to find myself going to bed 
like a child, angry at being interrupted, full of gusto, 
longing for the morning and for the current of life to be 
renewed. I don't say that life is very joyful^ but it is 
awfully interesting. . . . 

" The one supreme happiness of my life just now is 
my friendship with several young men on really equal 
terms — Percy, Salter, Gaselee, Hugh Walpole, and 
some of the undergraduates. I can't say how wonderful 
this is to me. While I was at Eton I gradually drifted 
out of that — indeed rather made friends with my elders 
— and now I seem to have slipped into touch with these 
young men. I dare say it isn't as close as I think, but 
it is a great happiness to me." 

199 



I9IO] THE DIARY OF 

" Tremans^ December 24. — Many tiresome letters and 
endless presents of cards and nonsense from admirers 
and readers. Do I like all this rubbish? It gives me a 
sense, I suppose, of reaching out into humanity; but it 
also makes me feel that I am only a sentimentalist at best. 
These are the wrong people 1 If it were the young men 
who liked [my books] it would be different; but it is 
the maiden aunts, and the silly middle-aged men, 
and the foolish maidens. It is a sort of fame; but as 
Carlyle says, no one was ever anything but injured by 
popularity. 

" I was hunted out of the drawing-room by callers 
and decorators; then hunted out of my own room as 
well. Christmas is a children's feast, and it seems 
rather silly for a grown-up household to be behaving so. 
The good Hunting went off to Cambridge. There is a 
real friend; he looks after me and cares for me and thinks 
for me as if I were his son. He never obtrudes himself, 
never gossips, never slanders. He is, I think, one of the 
very best men I have ever met. . . , 

" I had a depressed waking to-day after very vivid and 
sad dreams. I spent a day with Winterbotham in 
London, knowing I bored him. I took him to half a 
dozen clubs, but could get no food or attention, and he 
was always making excuses to leave me. I am not well 
to-day, excitable and depressed by turns; I must try to 
rest a little — but inaction bores me. I wrote twenty-six 
letters this morning. . . . 

" I walked alone; met Maycock — he was going to see 
a poor young man who is dying bravely of cancer. The 
sorrows of the world! And all I do to help is to write 
timid and chatty articles for maiden aunts. The day was 
warm and wet, with volleying winds and angry inky 
skies; very beautiful, with the wintry pastures and bare 
woods. There came a gleam of yellow light among the 
flying cloud-rack. I wish I knew what all this lavish 
beauty meant; it has such a hold on me, but I can't 
interpret it. 

" Since tea rather depressed again. The life here does 
not really suit me. But how can I keep quiet.? The 



200 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1910 

brain spins like a top; one writes, talks, writes again; and 
even as I walk alone I dream a hundred dreams and spin 
fancies. . . . Read Carlyle half the evening and felt 
ashamed of my mild dilettante outlook on men and 
things." 



20T 



IX 

I9II 

There is little to be said of the next year, save that it 
was still busier, still happier and more prosperous than 
the last. Even to himself it was clear by this time that 
he had no real inclination towards a life of literary 
retirement, and he seized all opportunities of extending 
the range of his work. He easily found enough and to 
spare. And yet he was sometimes troubled to think 
that with a dozen avocations he laboured to no great 
purpose after all, wanting a single task that satisfied 
him; for the solid and valuable work that he was 
accomplishing at Magdalene was all an interest and a 
pleasure, and he could never regard it as a professional 
duty. Outside the college, in Cambridge and else- 
where, he had desultory employment in plenty; but he 
began to wish for the chance to take a hand in the affairs 
and councils of the University itself, to which he had 
hardly penetrated as yet. It pleased him accordingly 
when in this year he was appointed a member of the 
syndicate controlling the University Press. He was 
thus brought into closer touch than hitherto with the 
academic polity, much to his satisfaction; but though 
he soon found himself engaged and interested, he was 
a newcomer to the business of university government, 
and his work in this direction never proceeded very 
far. An unprofessional figure in Cambridge life he 
remained to the end; and no doubt he was not the 
less useful for that, but it meant that Cambridge, 
outside Magdalene, did not provide him with the one 

202 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

absorbing task he needed. That, after leaving Eton, 
he never had again, at any rate until he became Master 
of his college. 

The only book he wrote, or finished, in this year was 
the fantasy called The Child of the Dawn. He gave 
a course of lectures on English fiction at the Royal 
Society of Literature, and another on Carlyle at 
Magdalene, but these were not published. 

^^ Walton Park Hotel,, Clevedon,, January 11, 191 1. — 
We set off at 11. 15 in a great scurry. . . . The country 
very beautiful, pale-green meadows, leafless brown trees, 
blue hills. A great motor met me at the station [Wells], 
and we rolled up in state through the quaint street, over the 
moat, up to the Palace. . , . Really it is a most romantic 
house, with its lawns and trees, its walls and moats. 
We went to see the Wells, where the clear green water 
comes volleying up through the sand. The Mendips 
behind all embower the view wonderfully. Then 
through the Cathedral and Vicars' Close, George 
conducting us. 

'* Then to the Deanery. . . . It's a wonderful house — 
a fine saloon with carved columns — many great rooms. 
The back is simply delicious, with oriels and parapets, a 
perfect great fifteenth-century house. The new Dean is 
going to make a chapel out of what was once, I think, the 
hall or gallery, destroying some later inserted bedrooms. 
The garden is big, but without charm. For many years 
of my life I should have thought that to be Dean of 
Wells would be like heaven; but now I found myself 
without the least touch of envy. It is a sham affair, 
pomposity without dignity, state without power. A great 
writer might be something here, but there is no audience 
for sermons, and the life must be petty and deplorable. 
It means nothing. It is the sort of place for an old 
wearied and courteous bishop, who had done his work, 
to repose in. But these enchanting houses are not fit 
homes for mortals. One wants untroubled youth and 
vigour and love and art to make them radiant. They 
are too good for old, timid and conventional Christians. 

203 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

I should like to have given such a house to William 
Morris in his youth. ..." 

''Magdalene^ January i6. — Dressed (at four o'clock!) 
and went up to town. To the Athenaeum. . . . 
I dined alone in state, and wrote a little at my lecture; 
seized with abject nervousness; but drove to City 
Temple, by Plum Tree Court. A big crowd, and I was 
refused admittance till I said I was the lecturer. A 
very obliging young secretary took me up to a horrid little 
room with a hot fire and plush chairs. Here I found 
R. J. Campbell — a nice, simple, bourgeois man, rather 
handsome, but rather marred; white hair and big eyes. 
. . . Then I stepped with him to the scaffold. The room 
was -packed^ all the gangways full of people standing— 
perhaps 800 — they had turned many away. Such rows 
of friendly and kindly faces. I plunged into my lecture 
and read distinctly; then took a rest of five minutes in the 
middle, while they gave out the notices. I asked Camp- 
bell who they all were; he hardly knew — clerks, trades- 
men, doctors, teachers, their wives and daughters — none 
of them residing there, all coming in by train. 

" The whole lecture took an hour and a half. A few 
little speeches; and then I made a tiny speech about 
dons in reply. It all gave me an impression of great and 
sincere friendliness and goodwill. The lecture was dull, 
but the socialist part was loudly applauded in one corner. 
Then a little supper — my voice had lasted well — and out 
by Campbell's private stair. But there was a crowd in 
the street waiting to see me go, with hats off, wanting to 
shake hands; some young ladies came on the steps of 
the car and shook hands; quite a new experience for me! 

" Much bored in the train, but was home by midnight; 
skpt ill." 

" January 17. — I have been thinking over my 
City Temple experience. It is odd to have really met, 
face to face, the people who read my books and love them 
— who think them original and high-minded and sincere 
and beautiful — who like the donnish and the aristocratic 

204 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1911 

flavour, the flavour picked up in episcopal palaces and 
county societ)' and Eton and Cambridge — and believe 
they have really found the charm of culture. It is 
humiliating in a sense, because I don't think it is a 
critical or an intellectual audience; but it is there, and its 
real and urgent goodwill is there. That remains with 
nie — the sense of having fallen among friends. 

" January 23. — A very warm letter from Herbert 
Stephen about my article on J.K.S.* He says that he 
thinks we difl^er about as extensively as two ' creditable ' 
men can — this fact he says is emphasised by his having 
read The Silent Isle — but he adds that he is well content 
to let my article stand as the locus classicus for Jim, and 
he congratulates me on its extraordinary vividness and 
accuracy. This is a great relief and a great pleasure. 
I had feared dimly that I might have pained some of the 
Stephens. 

" But it also makes me feel that this sort of reminis- 
cence is what I can do best. I have a close observation 
and a photographic eye — but it is very little pleasure 
indeed to do it. It seems to me the sort of thing that 
anyone can do or ought to be able to do; I want to criticise 
life, not to photograph it. 

" Went off with three undergraduates to shoot. We 
had a nice quiet day, in mist and mire, among leafless 
trees and wide, bare fields. We shot a few partridges; 
I shot very few cartridges, and not well at that; but I 
enjoyed the long lingering by hedgerow-ends, and the 
sense of the continuity of field-life, so much older and 
sweeter than Cambridge intrigues. ..." 

*' Lamb Hotels Burjord^ March 29. — Worked feebly 
at letters and diar)-. It was dull and cold, with a grey 
light. We went off after lunch to Fairford, packed 
tight in the car, very sleepy, through dull country; one 
pretty village we passed, called either Filkins or Broughton 
Poggs, we could not determine which. To Lechlade: 
I remembered well my day with Tatham there, when we 

• J. K. Stephen, in The Leaves of the Tree. 
205 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

went to Kelmscott, a day of enduring joy to me; I 
remembered so well a little stone pavilion, at the edge 
of a wood. We were soon at Fairford, but it was all 
dull; I never, I think, saw a place of which the beauty 
so much depends on the sun — the soft orange stone was 
all blurred. We went in and looked round the windows; 
they are certainly very beautiful, with their rich aged 
colours, and the patient ugly faces of the saints are worth 
a thousand of Kempe's wide-eyed courtly persons; but 
I don't think they would have been worth much when 
new. I liked best a Fall, with rich green trees, and a 
lovely little bit of wide homely landscape, delicately 
drawn in a blue light. Much bored by a courteous 
verger, who explained the windows so that I could not 
listen to him or look at them — like many lecturers. 
Then we walked cheerfully to Quenington, discussing 
the horrors of country-house life, Winterbotham defend- 
ing them; and Salter gave us a view of his political 
principles. . . . Quenington a sweet place of old 
houses and gliding waters, with pretty pavilions by the 
stream: a church with rude Norman doors. We were 
soon at Coin St. Aldwyn; we went to the church; W. and 
I walked round, peeped into the manor garden, where 
Lord St. A. lives, and saw the pretty grass terraces and 
the steep little park: then packed into the car and went 
quickly home. 

" I do like my fresh and simple-minded companions, 
who speak their minds so freely and ingenuously and 
do not treat me with any dull respect, though with 
plenty of consideration. Wrote, and dined, with 
cards and pretty talk till midnight. I am indeed happy 
here. . . . 

*' W. said to me that I didn't talk enough about my 
books, and he couldn't make out if I was really interested 
in them. I ought to be, he added graciously." 

" Magdalene^ May 4. — A slightly better account 
of Beth, but the end is not far off. Hugh is there. . . . 
I taught all the morning; then lunched with Smith — 
rather dull — and motored with Salter and Winterbotham 

206 




(j. Win 1 iRuoi liA.M 
1-. k. vSai/ikr a. (J. Hf.nson 



Bl'RIORD 

I9II 



[To face p. 206 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

to the oxlip wood — a different thing from Burford! 
W. was tired, I think, I was oppressed with care, and S. 
was a little pragmatical; he lectured me severely about 
not dining in hall! . . , 

" I wrote a little, dined alone, and read a paper to a 
mixed society of blacks and whites (East and West) at 
Fitzwilliam Hall. It is a well-meant plan to have a 
mixed social club; but friendliness which springs from 
a sense of duty and not from personal liking is rather a 
priggish thing, and it is hard to eliminate a sense of 
patronage from it. The bright-eyed Indians, with their 
dusky faces and unintelligible English, were very 
friendly, and the paper (Charles Kingsley) was well 
received." 

" May 5. — A better account of Beth, but a wire came 
to say that all was over.* I hardly know what I feel — 
a sort of dull ache of sorrow, at the thought of losing 
the one person of whose love I first was consciously 
aware, and the one person whom I have myself loved 
in a sort of instinctive way all my days. I think of all 
her endless little gifts and kindnesses, and the entirely 
uncritical sweetness of her love. It has been an extra- 
ordinarily beautiful, happy and useful life; just spent 
in service which she enjoyed, and among those whom she 
loved. I could not wish to keep her in the dim life 
she was living, and yet I can't bear to think she is 
gone. ... 

" I have had a dull and dreary feeling all day, and 
there seems no joy an^-^^'here; though the world was as 
sweet as ever — the sun on the leads of Ely as white 
as snow, and all the fruit-trees loaded with white 
blossom." 

''May 9. — I taught, and scribbled hard at arrears; 
some men to lunch. Lapsley came, and we biked, very 
gingerly, round by Horningsea; he was nice and gentle. 
Then I went out again, a rather lesser round, as L. had to 

• Elizabeth Cooper ("Beth") died at the age of 93, after 78 years of devoted 
service with Mrs. Benson and her family. 

207 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

go home to tea; and was altogether more cheerful. 
What is one meant to do, I wonder, by the Mind that 
made us? To grieve or not to grieve, to enjoy or not 
to enjoy? One does and will do, no doubt, whatever 
one is meant to do; but which way ought one to try to 
go — crush grief out, let it fade, keep it fresh, meditate 
over it? These things are dark. 

** I dined in hall. Mr. Pfungst, the wine-merchant 
and art-collector, was there — very courteous, rather 
interesting, extremely deaf. . . . He talked politics — 
anti-radical; and R. answered him with a shocking 
calmness, as a widower might answer jests about his 
dead wife, every now and then asking some high loud 
sectarian question which Mr. Pf. didn't hear. I 
resigned myself to listening. R. made an attack on 
monasticism — about their useless and trivial selfishness. 
Now when Hugh talks about monks I want to turn all 
monks adrift, with a horsewhip laid on their backs, and 
to burn down the monkeries. But when R. so talks 
I see he doesn't understand the thing at all, and despises 
it; and then I think monasticism the one thing worth 
preserving, as a bulwark against contemptuous virtue 
and complacent common-sense." 

" June 2. — Out to dine with the Marcus Dimsdales, 
which turned out a delightful party. They have added 
and added to their house, till it looks like a village street. 
But the garden on the hill-top, with its wide view, is 
delicious, and they have built a nice open-air sort of 
school-room for the children. . . . Jane Harrison 
was there; she is a pleasant woman and can sustain a 
conversation. There was also a Miss Balfour, whom I 
met at Aunt Nora's, such a pretty and charming girl. 
I felt that if I were young and wise I would like to have 
tried to make friends; but I was heavy and elderly, and 
when I spoke of ' Aunt Nora * she looked at me with 
amazement. Walter Raleigh* was there, most interest- 
ing and delightful. He is full of zest and humour, 
and is a real talker, darting and gliding on, picking up 

* Sir Walter Raleigh, Professor of English Literature at Oxford, died in 1922. 
208 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

other peoples contributions, giving them a deft twirl, 
and weaving a sort of pretty flower chain. . . . I came 
away after an evening of real and rational enjoyment, 
feeling that one had said what one thought, and heard 
other people's thoughts, not mere chatter smeared into 
gaps of boredom." 

" TremanSy June 7. — I wrote at my letters, but they 
accumulate fast. Went off about 12.0, and motored 
through heat and fine country to Lancing. The little 
woods, the thickly-grassed fields and the downs rising 
over all made a delicious picture. Bowlby* received us, 
and Mrs. Bowlby, and gave us lunch. His is a fine house 
with much modern culture, suggesting Browning and 
Florentine pictures; Luxmoore's old William Morris 
carpet was the finest thing in the house, I thought. 
Then we went all round. The great church is roofed 
and floored, but it wants an immense sum for wood- 
work and colour; it is hard and cold — it ought 
to be rich and dim ; the green windows, seen from 
a distance, are displeasing. We looked into science- 
rooms, class-rooms, halls, all ever so much more finished 
and furnished than when I visited it before. An air 
of prosperity everywhere; the boys smart and well- 
mannered. . . . The view was splendid; the downs, 
the river, the red roofs and old towers of Shoreham, 
the estuary and the line of blue sea, with the vague 
smoke and streets of Brighton laid out beyond, made 
a delightful picture. . . . 

" 1 could not help envying Bowlby a little; such 
a fine life, to rule a healthy community, and try to secure 
a good active healthy boyhood for these jolly creatures — 
and to try to put something bigger into their minds. I 
could not rule such a place; 1 haven't enough serenity 
or good humour or patience; yet I think I have many gifts 
for it. I am more at home with undergraduates and 
time for writing, and I wouldn't change my life; the 
thing is not as bright as it looked to-day; there are 

• Canon H. T. Bowlby, formerly assistant master at Eton, Headmaster of 
Lancing College, 1909-25. 

o 209 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

anxieties, squabbles, wearinesses, no doubt — and fears 
too. But it is a fine and a beautiful work. . . . 

" We met a lot of Territorials coming back, riding 
and clattering in the dust, very healthy and jolly. I 
got back tired, and had a very bad wakeful night of the 
worst kind. These days without exercise don't suit me 
at all." 

*' Skelwtthjold^ June 22* . — Hopeless rain and volleying 
wind; but in this astonishing climate it cleared somehow, 
and when Annie and I walked down to Brathay the grass 
was dry again. I went on up the valley with Dingo, and 
round by the Coniston Road. A great dog rushed out 
of a farm-house at Dingo. I threw a stone at him, and 
Dingo ambled beside me with an obvious smile, appearing 
to say, ' We are well out of that ! The stone was a 
good idea.' 

" Then I came in to a solitary tea and proofs. I do 
find the climate here very unpleasant; I am sleepy, lazy, 
greedy; I can hardly put one foot before another. But I 
like the quiet of this house and the easy ways and the 
affection which surrounds me. A. came back very tired 
from the sports about 7.30: advised me not to dress. 
Cordelia arrived about 8.15 in rather a peremptory mood, 
determined to have the bonfire and be damned. So 
after dinner at 10 o'clock, in heavy rain, I walked with 
her in cloak and strong shoes, carrying boxes, to a little 
eminence among the woods below the house. The 
bonfire was an immense pile, 250 loads of faggots; we 
sent off a rocket or two, and then lighted the thing. 
Meanwhile, through the misty air, we could see a faint 
bonfire like a star on High Close; and the top of 
Loughrigg looked like a volcano. 

" The bonfire was grand — so liquid^ both in sound 
and sight. There came a time when fire flowed into 
the air like an upward-darting cataract. It lit up the 
trees and the faces of the crowd in a very theatrical 
manner; and the heat was tremendous, so that standing 
afar off my cloak smoked. There was one great fall 

* King George V's coronation day. 
210 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

of material, and a pillar of smoke and fire raged out; 
but it hypnotised ever\'one — the crowd stood gazing, 
silent. Then we sent off a few more squibs and things, 
and when the fire was nothing but a red and grey 
mountain of embers went back about midnight. The 
crowd cheered A. with a will." 

" 7«A' 3- — Rose earlier; and we all went off together 
in the car to catch the 10.15 at Windermere. . . . 

" Ru/e 43: Never travel with women. We had an 
engaged compartment, which was comfortable; but OH 
the fuss about luggage and wraps. A. and C. had on 
a moderate computation eighteen packages. Then 
there was a t)Te, a box containing china, a kettle in a 
sack, a box with some cheese in it. These were all 
piled up in our compartment — some of them handed out 
at Kendal. It was a pleasant journey though; the train 
was a huge one, and it seemed to be just abandoned at 
stations by all concerned — stood idly waiting until it 
occurred to some official to try if he could start it. 

*' I read Endymion — and indeed the whole of Keats 
except Otho. I do wish with all my heart that in a 
popular edition they would not print his wretched 
impromptu rubbish, much of it so caddish and vulgar; 
it is interesting only to the artist, as an unfinished sketch 
or study, while it makes the ordinary person think it all 
equally good. It is curious to trace in Keats the germ 
of so much in William Morris and Tennyson too. The 
bream keeping head against the freshet is exactly W.M., 
and much oi Hyperion is Tennyson. On the other hand 
much of Keats is pure Milton. 

" I changed at Bletchley and said good-bye to the 
beloved women. A hot train received me. The only 
relief — I was very tired and sleepy — was the look of 
the green, warm river-water at Bedford, reed-fringed, 
weed-grown, in the quiet hay-fields. . . . 

" I had a dream last night so horribly vivid that I am 
sure my brain was unduly fevered. ... It began with 
my being with Jones in a field, and seeing an odd thing 
rise out of the earth. On looking close, it was two 

21 1 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

snakes, curiously intertwined. They were poisonous 
snakes, and I tried to kill one with a stick; but soon after 
found they had disappeared in a hole. I got a spade 
and dug, and presently much earth fell in and showed 
a rocky cleft with a pool in which snakes were swimming 
about. I went to a shop — by this time the field was 
become a little bare hill, standing out among houses, 
very interesting and quaint, in odd little streets and 
squares — and bought some petrol, with the idea of get- 
ting a light to spear the snakes; but I spilt the tin in the 
cave, and it was somehow kindled and drove us out by 
burning fiercely. Then King Edward VII appeared, 
very genial, to ask why smoke was coming out of the 
hill; I explained, and he said it would be all right if it 
didn't spread. But on walking round the little town I 
saw that streams of fire were running out of the hill, 
dripping down, and half-a-dozen houses were alight. 
I roused the inmates; and then followed a time of agony 
while the fires were got under and I patrolled the base 
of the hill waiting for more streams to break out. I 
woke in great discomfort of mind and body: read a long 
time and didn't get to sleep till 4.0." 

''Magdalene, July 8. — The heat insupportable. I 
sate all the morning; the portrait improves.* . . . 
Biked alone round Horningsea: had some talk to my 
little gatekeeper at Clayhithe. Then along by the river; 
.n this heat all decency goes to the winds — there were 
people bathing frankly all along — but it was very nice 
and summery, and gave a sense of holiday and golden 
age. What a pretty thing the human body is! I saw 
a fine radiant boy come out of the water, looking like a 
little god: in five minutes he was clothed and shouting, 
a horrible cad! Then I wrote an article on Oratory. 
It has been a happy day. In the evening sate out for 
an hour in the dusk, with Salter and Maitland. The 
electric works throbbed, and a large orange moon went 
slowly down over the Pepys building. Vague scents 
wandered, obscure sounds thrilled in the twilight. 

* This portrait, by Mr. A. Fuller Maitland, is now at Magdalene. 
212 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

Then some talk with M.; and to bed, but could not 
sleep; read most of J. A. Symonds's life — a horrible 
tortured affair, which vexes me more the oftener I read 
it. . . . 

" I worked out my last year's income yesterday, which 
was better than I had hoped. It came to ;{^3,66o. Of 
this I seem to have spent ;(^2,ioo — how, I can't imagine — 
invested about ;/^700, and given about ;£8oo to decorating 
the college in various ways. What I don't like is the 
fact that I spend so much on myself; and yet I live simply 
enough. I have also carefully analysed my private 
income, apart from teaching and writing; it comes to 
about ;^i,7oo. . . . One ought not to need more, but 
I want to have a lot to give away." 

''July 14. — At 8.0 to the dinner — about 

twenty guests, most of them, it turned out, about my 
age. . . . Afterwards talked to various men, civil, 
sentimental, pleased. It gave me rather a horrible 
sensation. Many of them were obviously drunk, and 
the awful stupidity of the talk! I really felt myself to be 
cleverer than some of the guests. Several people asked 
to be introduced to me, said they wished to make my 
acquaintance, and then talked continuously. One man 
asked me for a photograph, for his wife — said he didn't 
himself care about such things. But it seemed to me a 
vile thing to see the kind of mess people make of their 
lives — the inevitable mess — and then becoming pursy 
and short-winded and red-nosed and stupid beyond 
words. None of them (except an interesting man, a 
doctor) could talk; they could only go on with endless 
repetitions. And then they could do little but tell tales 
of their desperate deeds, when one knozvs them to have 
been harmless creatures, and the only people they 
admired were ' blues.' It all seemed to me such an 
ugly business, and man to be an animal very little removed 
from the pig, unpleasant to see and hear and smell — 
and with no idea of what he was doing or where he was 
going — no emotion about it all. Surely an education 
must be very bad to break down so horribly in 

213 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

middle-age as this — so many failures, and complacent 
failures. . . . " 

" July 19. — I asked S. to lunch, a handsome Indian 
— a fine creature, I think; but what ugly voices and 
hideous pronunciations they have. . . . The Master 
invited himself to lunch and the combination was not 
happy. The Master talked private shop, with an 
occasional word to ' Mr. S.' S. said nothing, but ate 
and drank with gleaming eyes. 

" Then I motored with Laurence; we went to Grant- 
chester and walked across to Haslingfield, exploring a 
pretty quarry on the north-east end of Chapel Hill — 
full of flowers, a pretty campanula. . . . Laurence 
talked very interestingly though dryly about men and 
books. 

" I feel now that the mistake I made in coming up to 
Cambridge was to feel that people here lived in an 
intellectual atmosphere. They do not — they live in 
affairs and gossip. They hate their work, I often think, 
and have few other interests. I believe my own 
intellectual temperature is higher than the average 
here. 

*' As we came back we saw the D.D.s and B.D.s in 
black gowns and cassocks flocking out of the Senate 
House after listening to the Lady Margaret Professor- 
ship praelections. . . . They looked like rooks in a 
rookery. I think I hated these meek, courteous, cautious, 
respectable men, so unoriginal and unenterprising, so 
comfortable and fortunate, so down on all unorthodoxy 
or independence. I should have liked to give them a 
little real religion to suffer for! . . . 

" The Archdeacon of Ely* dined with me — such a 
bluff, clear-headed, humorous big man. There's a man 
one can both like and respect. . . . Salter and 
Hepburn came in and we played jacobi. To bed late, 
and slept very badly indeed. This heat is damnable. But 
it has one good result, that I read a lot of books in 
bed. ..." 

* Dr. W. Cunningham, Archdeacon of Ely, died in 1919. 
214 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

" July 21. — It was 89 in the shade to-day and I am 
poured out like water. I spent the morning in trying 
to plan a bicycle shed and taking Hugh Walpole round 
my improvements — and in trying to clear off letters. 
Then we motored to St. Ives: looked at the church, where 
a girl like Cordelia played music. Then along the river- 
bank to Houghton in great heat. It was pleasant to 
stand by the dripping mill-wheel at Houghton, with its 
mossy spokes and its flying spray, and the smell of the 
cool river-water was divine. Then we sate by the lock 
and watched boatfuls of females shoving off. I think 
there is something very horrid about women — so 
self-conscious and inconsequent! . . . 

" I had a curious letter from , very radiant 

within! I had said in my letter that I accounted myself 
a failure. He consoles me, says that I have an influence, 
but that he wishes I would not put it into the opposite 
scale from practical work. That is what I am supposed 
to do. What I meant by failure was that I had no 
official position, and that one is not held to succeed 
apart from that in England. . . . 

" It was beautiful to-day, out in the wide meadows 
by the clear stream; but everything is getting burnt up, 
and one is sadly conscious of one's heavy and molten 
body. There is something very relentless about this 
slowly growing calm heat." 

" 'July 26. — Cockerel!* came to lunch, and we 
had a dignified duet about art and artistic things and 
artistic people. I took him all round my various decora- 
tions. He half-approves, but not very cordially. He 
is rather a purist, of course, and doesn't like anything 
which is not authoritarian. But I always like a talk to 
Cockerel!; he is simple, direct, xzxY^tr fierce^ very sure of 
his opinion, not sympathetic; he is like an old-fashioned 
Evangelical, with the difl^erence that he worships beauty 
in his way. , . . S. accompanied us, and I could not 
help being astonished at the relentless way he rubbed 
in his preferences, without the slightest intention of 

• Mr. S. C, Cockerel!, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum. 



21 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

giving them up. . . . It is a case with S. of * a new 
commandment give I unto you ' (not ' that ye love one 
another,' but) ' thou shalt have none other gods but 
me.' It does seem to me that compromise is the best 
thing in the world. ..." 

" July 27. — DAMN the heat! Here we are, as 
hot and scalding as ever, so that I begin to sweat 
reading the paper in bed. I have to go to town to-day, 
too. . . . 

'* I did go, and it was really fearful. . . . The 
Court-room was blazing, with the windows shut to keep 
out noise and orange blinds down: it was like some 
awful place of torture. . . . Then, boiling and grilling, 
to Cambridge — I did write a scrap in the train — found 
P.L. had arrived and was sitting in white shirt and 
trousers. . . . We strolled a little. Oliffe Richmond 
came to dinner and was pleasant enough; we sate in the 
garden in the dusk. . . . 

" Then followed one of the most beautiful and 
exciting nights I have had for years. 

" Percy and I decided to bicycle. We started about 
ii.o: went slowly to Barton, and so to Haslingfield: 
then between Haslingfield and Harston we lay long on 
the grass, near ricks, listening to owls and the snorting 
of some beast that drew nigh, to far-off dogs barking, 
and cocks crowing. The stars were like the points of 
pendants in the irregular roof of a cave — not an even 
carpet or set in a concave. We went on about i.o, and 
then made a long halt near the G.N.R. bridge on the 
way to Newton; but no trains passed, so we went on 
about 1.45 to Shelford; and this was very sweet, so 
fragrant and shadowed by dark trees, while Algol and 
Aldebaran and other great shining stars slowly wheeled 
above us. 

" We got to the G.E.R. bridge at Shelford — I was 
anxious to see trains — and half-a-dozen great luggers 
jangled through with a cloud of steam and coloured 
lights. There was one that halted, and the guard 
walked about with a lantern; a melancholy policeman 

216 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

was here, in the shadow. The owls again hooted and 
screamed and cocks roared hoarsely. 

" Suddenly we became aware it was the dawn! The 
sky was whitening, there was a green tinge to east, with 
rusty stains of cloud, and the stars went out. We went 
on about 2.30 to Grantchester, where the mill with 
lighted windows was rumbling, and the water ran oily- 
smooth into the inky pool among the trees. Then it 
was day; and by the time we rode into Cambridge, 
getting in at 3.30, it was the white morning light — while 
all the places so mysteriously different at night had 
become the places one knew. We found some bread-and- 
butter, and smoked till 4.0, when we went out round the 
garden, the day now brightening up: after which I went 
to bed, but P. walked till 5.0. The mystery, the cool- 
ness, the scent, the quiet of it all were wonderful, and 
the thought that this strange transformation passes over 
the world thus night by night seemed very amazing. 
. . . We talked of many things, but were a good deal 
silent; and I shall not easily forget the dewy silence and 
sweetness of it all." 

" 'July 28. — Another day of Damned heat. The 
contrast of my hideous heavy sweating self to what it 
was last night at the mill-pool is like comparing heaven 
and hell. I am neither tired nor sleepy — only with the 
sense of relentless persecution which the heat gives. . . 

** I went out to dine with Aunt Nora.* The Newalls 
were there — he is a dear. . . . Aunt N. very sweet. 
But the heat! I was not at my best — very full of 
stories and witticisms of a hard kind, and information: 
this all evoked by a tendency for us all to be afflicted 
with the stares. I felt how I should have hated myself 
if I had met myself." 

" July 29. — After a bad night got up at 7.15 very 
hot and sick. Breakfast with" Salter and P.L. Then 
at 8.0 R. M. Holland arrived, and Mac Michael. We 
packed in together and sped to Holt. I rather enjoyed 

• Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, sometime Principal of Newnham College. Professor 
Henry Sidgwick (who died in 1899) was a brother of Mrs. Benson. 

217 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

it, I think; it was fairly cool. The country I liked best 
was that between Brandon and Walton, where I think 
I must some day spend a month — so full of sweet woods 
and pleasant villages. 

"We were at Holt soon after ii.o. I went to a 
meeting. . . . We also had a boy in to reprove. . . . 

** Then lunch: Westcott (Archdeacon) very deaf and 
venerable. The clergy were awful. The rebuked boy 
had as one of his misdemeanours played kiss-in-the-ring 
at a Church Fete. A vicar said anxiously to me, ' What 
is your view of the ethics of kiss-in-the-ring.'^ ' Then 
the speeches, in the open-air woodland theatre — very 
hot, and the air makes voices, and faces, ineffective. 
Westcott was good — nice and paternal in manner, 
amusing, not in the least priggish or profound. . . . 
The boys all looked smart and good, and the whole day 
was rather jolly. 

*' Then a rush round Miller's house with Chinnery, 
talk to two or three boys, tea and flight. I got off the 
main stream of gabble altogether. We came back 
at a great pace, up to fifty miles an hour in places. 
Salter and Percy to dine, and rather too much 
champagne. . . . 

I begin to feel strongly my own puerility, and my 
incapacity for all strong and deep emotion. I wish that 
by some means or other I might have a deep and worthy 
emotion, something which would carry me out of my- 
self — not a shock, but a new wave and current of life 
and energy. All this zest in details and vignettes is 
very distracting and amusing — but there is no even flow 
of life." 

** August 15. — Slept well, and it is really cooler, thank 
God. I had to trot about settling many points about 
chimes, doors, pavements, pictures, etc. The place now 
wants leaving alone again for a bit, to let the novelties 
grow old and venerable. 

" Difficulties about plans. ... It ended by Winter- 
botham and myself biking round by Overcourt and 
Holywell. The latter place filled with strangely-dressed 

218 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

odd-looking persons — an old man with white whiskers 
and a puggaree, a young girl with a pretty discontented 
face, a young man of evil appearance. . . . W. was a 
little tired by the ride, I think, but he was very gracious 
and good-tempered. ... I think he is getting a little 
tired, though he won't admit it, of these quiet days. 
He seems very content to moon about with me and read 
novels. I hope he will pick up business keenly, but I 
don't feel sure. Meanwhile he is a perfect companion, 
and I have never lived with any one in such peace and 
comtort. ..." 

*' August 18. — I am sorry it is the last day of our long 
companionship. I have never lived on easier terms 
with so young a man for so long — and not quite my sort 
either, nothing literary or precious about him. But it 
has become natural to talk to him with absolute openness 
and directness and to say anything that comes into one's 
head. ..." 

''August 19. — The pitiless heat continues — cloud- 
less sky, no hope of rain. I sit wishing W. were 
back every minute — and yet with a curious self-sufficiency 
and serenity which, when I am well, tides me over 
emotional crises. I don't like being thus at all — it is 
hard and cold; but it has always been so with me, and 
I have suffered very little through my emotions in this 
life. My emotion is like a looking-glass; it takes a very 
accurate and living picture of a present figure, but is 
unchanged by its disappearance, and as lucent-grey and 
polished as ever. ..." 

" County Hotels Carlisle^ August 31. — Our expedi- 
tion was to see the Carlyle country. We went to 
Gretna Green, and so to Annan, a grim, trim, respectable, 
uninteresting town. We inquired our way at a book- 
seller's, where a nice handsome woman, with a rolling 
coquettish eye and a pink face, was voluble and confusing. 
Just as we were going off she brought up to us a hard- 
featured grim lady of about fifty, who introduced herself 

219 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

as Carlyle's niece, daughter of his sister. She had little 
information to give ; but she was very anxious we should 
realise who she was, and repeated it several times. . . . 
We went to Ecclefechan, a bare lean town, neat enough, 
but without any charm. ... It seemed the abode of 
dry and prosperous people, with no need for sentiment. 
We found a merry old lady, with a broad accent very 
hard to follow, who showed us the graves. There are 
three, railed in, in a very dreary churchyard. The 
central one of solid sandstone covers Carlyle, and his 
brother John, the doctor. The kirk is of the vilest 
ugliness, red stone, with a spire, ground glass, very 
pretentious. 

*' We went to the house in the street where Carlyle 
was born. It is a white substantial house, with a porte- 
cochere in the centre. . . . Here there were many 
interesting photographs and odds and ends. It is very 
difficult to realise his appearance. When younger he 
was dour and underhung; the beard improved him, and 
at about sixty he was noble-looking, with the * crucified ' 
expression: an odd mixture of a peasant and a don, but 
always a peasant. In age he was very lean and spidery. 
The early pictures of Mrs. Carlyle very lovely indeed, 
with a touch of irony; but the pictures of her in 1854 
(twelve years before she died) are hauntingly terrible — 
the mixture of ill-health and unhappiness very con- 
spicuous. . . . 

" We then plunged into the country to find Scotsbrig, 
the farm where they lived so long, where both father and 
mother died, and where Carlyle went so often in his 
depressed moods to idle and smoke and walk and con- 
template and rage. The pictures represent it as a sort 
of hovel, but it's a very nice substantial homestead, with 
a good deal of dignity. . . . They had no servant, the 
sisters did the house- work; Carlyle had his own room, 
was never expected to do anything in the way of work, 
and loafed about by himself unquestioned. But the 
whole thing is much bigger and more comfortable than 
I had any idea of; it seemed to me an ideal little country 
retreat. This is another illusion dispelled. . . . 

220 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

" The country has nice details; but it is homely and 
rather dreary — for use, not for ornament. The low, 
irregular hills, everywhere closely cultivated, rather bare, 
have no grace of outline. . . . Then quickly back in 
rain. A very interesting day, and I am so steeped in 
Carlyle that it was all full of meaning. 

'* The people are homely too, weatherworn and 
bearded farmers, ugly women, nice children. But they 
are intelligent and friendly in a rough, independent sort 
of way." 

" Orchard House Hotel, Gihland^ September 5. — 
Spencer Lyttelton arrived at 7.0, very lean and brown 
and crisp. Ainger suggested going to Naworth, but 
I pleaded for Borcovicus, while it was fine; Naworth 
can be seen any day. Ainger said, so mildly, * Very 
well, it doesn't matter a bit what we do,' that I knew 
mischief was brewing. A quiet, rather broken night, 
and a mournful awakening." 

" September 6. — Ainger at breakfast threw off 
the mask. He said, * As we have settled to go to 
Naworth to-day we must start at ii.o.' It's no use 
protesting; he is angelic if he gets his way, grim and 
fretful if he doesn't. So the car was ordered, and lunch, 
and I tried to write some of my endless letters. We 
started. Ainger and Spencer seized upon the back-seat 
of the car; I sate humbly huddled in front, opened gates, 
etc., Ainger saying obligingly, ' I am sorry you should 
have so many gates to open.' I hate this sort of thing; 
it makes me sulky and furious. That I pay for the 
whole show is a small matter. But it seems I have all 
the privileges of a host, as far as the servile details go, 
and none of the privileges of a host in settling where we 
go or what we do. But who is meek and I am not 
meek? — as the blessed apostle said with more force than 
precision. 

" We went to Brampton, bought petrol, strolled about, 
and so to Naworth. This is a great castle of splendid 
antiquity, like a huge college, with halls and towers and 

221 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

a chapel, round a courtyard, belonging to Lord Carlisle. 
. . . We got to the door, to find that tourists can only 
see it from 2.0 to 5.0; but a pleasant-looking woman in 
black, who was sitting v/ith two little girls on a stone 
seat, got up and greeted Spencer. This was Lady 
Mary Murray; she went in and said she would tell Lady 
Carlisle. We drifted into a vast tapestried hall, such 
a noble room, with armour and pictures. Lady Carlisle 
was there, talking anxiously to a careworn-looking man. 
She came and greeted us pleasantly; she is pretty and 
looks good. She said we might see the castle, but that 
Lord Carlisle had been taken very ill; she was waiting 
to see a specialist, who was hourly expected. . . . 
Then she sent two jolly little girls, her daughters, to 
show us everything. They took us up into a tower, 
showed us Lord William's bedroom and oratory, which 
look out over the woods and the falling river, and chat- 
tered away very delightfully; but I was upset by our 
unfortunate intrusion, at the wrong time, and under such 
circumstances. I couldn't, however, help admiring their 
kindness and courtesy. I was thankful to get out of 
the place, noble as it was. 

" But I don't think that human beings ought to have 
such houses at all, and certainly not by inheritance. It 
isn't as if they produced nobility of character or a sense 
of duty — and they must be very bewildering to the souls 
of their possessors. . . . 

" When we got in to tea I felt as if I had been out for 
several years. Spencer is excellent company, however, 
and has a fresh knowledge of people which is highly 
entertaining; he seems to know everybody well. . . . 
I felt myself very elderly to-day. I have a bad knee, 
and I seemed stout, out of breath, hot, stiff and 
footsore — quite a pursy old boy, in fact. But I wasn't 
tired." 

*' Magdalene^ October 11. — It seems so natural to have 
Winterbotham domiciled here. He is as ingenuous as 
ever. . . . He is a very dear person to me, and I am 
grateful for his affection . A delightful letter from Gosse, 

222 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 1 

and an offer of marriage from a lady in America. My 
two books published to-day: Paul the Minstrel (a 
reprint) and The Leaves of the Tree. 

" Read a curious book, Petrarch's Secretum — a fancied 
dialogue between Petrarch and St. Augustine: a very 
intimate confession — but the odd thing is to find no 
mention of Christ or the Gospel, and to discover 
Augustine in the light of a philosopher, quoting Cicero 
and Virgil and recommending a sort of Stoicism. The 
whole thing is entirely individualistic, and considers 
religion as an affair between the soul and God, not 
involving any brotherhood with men or love of one's 
neighbour. . . . 

" To Chapel. The creed was chanted, and the Master, 
forgetting the ritual, intoned the Dominus vohiscum. 
There was a dead silence, the organist shuffling about. 
Then Gaselee, with his mouth like a trumpet and a 
furious look, roared, * Arnda weeth thy a-Speereett-a,' 
in a brazen voice as of a sacristan, in a stupefied silence — 
and saved the situation. . . . 

" At dinner I sate next Waggett — rather fractious, 
but appealing; then by Pym, the chaplain of Trinity, 
and found him delightful; and then by Professor 
Newsom, who wants to make religion free from its 
old stupidities — an advanced modernist — I liked him, 
and his enthusiasm and his impatience with the old 
nonsense. . . . 

" Frank Darwin brought in Festing Jones, the friend 
of Samuel Butler — a tall solemn, quiet man, rather like 
Samuel Morley. He didn't scintillate, so of course I 
had logorrhea and talked too much. Then a little 
talk to Winterbotham, and so to bed." 

''November 5. — Woke in depression; but it cleared 
off, though all day long I have had touches of that 
misgiving, that nausea of the mind which is the trouble. 
I have been writing too much, I daresay, and going 
ahead rather recklessly. I have a very busy week ahead, 
but I will tr)- to take things easier. Keable preached a 
sermon — rather moving, but I thought lacking in breadth 

223 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

of sympathy. He described ' a view of things ' which 
was meant to be characteristic of the Modernist — I told 
him afterwards it was only * a view of Inge's.* . . . 
Winstanley came to dine with me and was very amusing. 
I had some talk with G. G. Morris, now Fellow of 
Jesus; he is a charming and sprightly little being, and 
brought up against me my old criticisms of him in my 
division at Eton. ..." 

** November 6. — I woke in the real old fierce depres- 
sion. I could not shake it off. I went to shoot at Kat's 
Hall; we took two undergraduates. It was a fine, bright, 
fresh day, with a wind — all conditions delightful. I shot 
quite well, even at driven partridges. But a horrid 
melancholy hung over me all day, rising at times into a 
sort of mental nausea. I do pray I am not going to be 
submerged again. . . . 

" Back pretty early; but I was very low and gloomy. 
I wrote a little. Hall made horrible by peevish and 
disagreeable argument. Then a long Kingsley meeting: 
an election, and a paper by Barstow on ' Alma Mater ' — 
odd views of examinations and dons. The boys are 
keen and nice, and I really rather enjoyed this. I 
hope the cloud may pass off; but to-day has been a 
bad one." 

*' November 7. — I awoke a little sea-sick in mind, but 
decidedly better. Work soon restored me. . . . 

" In the evening I went to dine at St. John's with 
Tanner — sate between him and Bateson and was well 
entertained. It is a fine place, that hall, and the 
great gallery is simply magnificent. Bateson was very 
good-humoured. I was in excellent spirits and all went 
well. Liveing, the President, is a fine grotesque old 
figure. The Public Orator was very civil and came to sit 
next me afterwards. He told me a funny story. A 
Scotch laird had his school inspected in English literature. 
A question was asked about Shakespeare, and a piping 
voice said in answer to a question about the plays, 
'Macbeth.' 'Did anyone say Macbeth.-^' said the 

224 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 j 

examiner in strident tones. No one dared to answer. 
The laird, who was not up in literature and thought 
the word was a childish jest, said afterwards to his 
friends, * the best of it was that the little rascal had said 
Macbeth.' . . . 

*' I came back having eaten, drunk and talked too 
much, but with a genial view of the world." 

" November 8. — Went to the Royal Society of Litera- 
ture: saw Newbolt, Gerothwohl, Prothero, P. Lubbock, 
etc. The room was not nearly full. It had been absurdly 
mismanaged, tickets wrongly distributed, no notice 
given. I ' gollyed ' out my great paper, very rapidly 
and very loudly to a meek and amiable audience, mostly 
women. A silly affair! Newbolt and Percy seemed to 
approve. . . . 

" Went to Athenaeum. Then Henry James appeared, 
looking stout and well, and rather excitedly cheerful. 
He would not talk, but hurried off to order his dinner. I 
had induced him not to attend the lecture — it would be 
farcical impudence for me to hold forth to him! He 
returned at 7.30, and we sate down together. There is 
something about him which was not there before, some- 
thing stony, strained, anxious. But he was deeply 
affectionate and talked very characteristically. He said 
of P.'s article on William Morris that it was charming, 
but began at the wrong end — that it was a well-combed, 
well-dressed figure, and that P. had overlooked the 
bloody, lusty, noisy grotesque elements in Morris. * In 
these things, my dear Arthur, we must always be 
bloody,' . . . He had read Arnold Bennett. ' The 
fact is that I am so saturated with impressions that I 
can't take in new ones. I have lived my life, I have 
worked out my little conceptions, I have an idea how it 
all ought to be done — and here comes a man with his 
great voluminous books, dripping with detail — but with 
no scheme, no conception of character, no subject — per- 
haps a vague idea of just sketching a character or two — 
and then comes this great panorama, everything perceived, 
nothing seen into^ nothing related. He's not afraid of 

225 



191 1] THE DIARY OF 

masses and crowds and figures — but one asks oneself 
what is it all for, where does it all tend, what's the 
aim of it ? ' 

*' By this time we had dawdled and pecked through 
our dinner — he ate a hearty meal, and there was much of 
that delicious gesture, the upturned eye, the clenched 
upheld hand, and that jolly laughter that begins in the 
middle of a sentence and permeates it all. . . . 

" Then he spoke about Hugh Walpole — he said he 
was charming in his zest for experience and his love 
of intimacies. ' I often think,' he went on, ' if I look 
back at my own starved past, that I wish I had done more, 
reached out further, claimed more — and I should be the 
last to block the way. The only thing is to be there, to 
wait, to sympathise, to help if necessary.' . . . He 
joined all this with many pats and caressing gestures; 
then led me down by the arm and sent me off with a 
blessing. I felt he was glad that I should go — had felt 
the strain — but that he was well and happy. He is a 
wonderful person, so entirely simple in emotion and 
loyalty, so complicated in mind. His little round head, 
his fine gestures, even to the waiters — * I am not taking 
any of this — I don't need this ' — his rolling eyes, with 
the heavy lines round them, his rolling resolute gait, as 
if he shouldered something and set off with his burden — 
all very impressive. ..." 

'''November 21. — A call from Walter Durnford,* 
looking very neat and smart. He asked me to dine at 
King's on the 6th, but I refused. King's, my old college, 
is a harsh and indifferent stepmother — no notice taken 
of one, no interest felt or expressed. 

" Then to lunch . . . three Nonconformists. The 
talk was good and solid, but curiously without charm — 
no traditions, I think, and very raw humour — the whole 
sensible, not attractive. But they seemed to have a 
grim free-masonry of their own, which I didn't share. 
It is odd how different I felt, and yet I don't know why. 

• Sir Walter Durnford, Provost of King's in 1918, died 1926. For another 
impression of King's see May 14, 1924. 

226 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 j 
It seemed to me that they knew a narrower world, and 
believed it to be more sterling, honest and simple than 

n/lu r^^'^u"? ^^\?'' '^' ?'"'' Syndicate, the centre 
of a 1 Cambridge jobbery. It will mean much work 
but I like to be included. I don't suppose I shal 
effect anything. But it means that I have after 
eight years a really recognised position here. Verv 
unexpected. ... ^ 

" It has been a cheerful and lively day, and I have 
been m good spirits. Last night I dreamed of swim- 
HK^^^lf^K-n ^ ^"T indigo-coloured sea, with strange 
cit>-clad hills on the horizon; and two do^s came and 
looked in at my window this morning, a brindled lurcher 
and a sandy Irish dog; so I am in the mind of the Rods 
for good or evil. . . . " ^ ' 



227 



X 

I9I2 

Other work might be multiplied and diversified year 
by year, but the evening hours of writing were seldom 
encroached upon, and the days w^ere few on which a 
packet of manuscript was not despatched to the typist 
on the stroke of dinner-time. If he published two 
volumes in the course of the year they perhaps repre- 
sented a third of the year's written work. What 
became of all the rest? Some of it would consist of 
lectures, addresses, papers to be read before under- 
graduate societies, sermons to be preached in his own 
and other college chapels, articles for certain monthly 
and weekly periodicals (principally the Co?-nhill and the 
Church Family Newspaper). But with all this there 
was much still left that never came to print — essays, 
meditations, sketches, and here and there a complete 
book that for some reason had been put aside and 
forgotten as soon as it was finished. It happened that 
several volumes now followed one another to this fate 
in quick succession; for he began to write novels, and 
within a few months he had written four or five, and 
it was evidently impossible to find room for them all 
among his publications of the year. Moreover he 
felt at first some diffidence in appearing as a romancer; 
for though he had many of the gifts of a storyteller 
(as his pupils at Eton well knew), dramatically and 
psychologically his fiction might seem a light weight 
to be oflFered by an author of his standing. But it 
was composed with intense enjoyment, and of this first 

228 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1912 

batch of his novels he allowed one, Watersprings^ to 
face the public. Two other volumes in his more 
familiar vein, Joyous Gard and Thy Rod and Thy Staffs 
were also written in 1912, and he gave a course of 
lectures at Magdalene on William Morris. 

The year was marked by his becoming President 
of the college — such, at Magdalene, being the title of 
the Vice-Master — on the retirement of Mr. A. G. 
Peskett. He accepted the office with gratification, and 
enjoyed the duty of presiding in hall and at college 
meetings in the absence of the Master. Otherwise 
his life within and without the college went on 
unchanged. 

** Riviera Palace Hotels Penzance^ January 6, 19 12. — A 
strong gale with hissing rain, the fir-trees swaying, the 
sky bleared and stained. ... I feel here in Cornwall 
like Polydorus in the JEn^'id. He was slain with many 
spears, and they buried him as he was, a perfect 
pincushion. Then the spears came up as saplings, 
so that when i^neas pulled one up, blood dropped and a 
lamentable voice screamed from the ground. 

" Gosse became ill again and was seized with pain in 
the course of the morning. It rained and blew like the 
devil, while Gosse lay on a sofa and stared with haggard 
eyes at the fire, an uncut Swedish novel in his listless 
hand. He would not eat lunch. 

'* There is a constant drift of newcomers. ... A 
dreary red-nosed dyspeptic clergyman at one table, at 
another a young man who smiles brilliantly to himself, 
at another a gloomy whiskered man, with brows drawn 
up and corrugated with care, who feeds himself carefully 
and compassionately and takes salt with his bananas — 
I like to watch all his little ways and manners; at another 
an elderly couple, a gross slow-moving old man, and a 
haughty female who has once been beautiful and now 
looks unutterably bored. A shifting pageant of human 
lives, like a big hotel, isn't a very encouraging aftair. It 
doesn't give one the idea that life is very happy or satis- 
factory. At a place like this the people who come are 

229 



1 912] THE DIARY OF 

mostly fortunate people — with more wealth than the run 
of men; but there seem few happy parties or happy faces — 
much that is tired and cross and bored and disillusioned. 
There is a cross man by the window with a waxed mous- 
tache, whose wife, a spectacled wretch, spends the end 
of every meal in shaking up for him a phial of purple 
medicine. It's no good saying people ought to be more 
cheerful ; it requires a good deal of character to be 
cheerful if you don't feel it. The wonder to me is 
why more of them are not cheerful, why life should 
be disappointing, what it is in experience which drains 
people of joy and hope, and whether they could help 
it. But I expect that many of these people are 
really more cheerful than they seem. Shyness in 
English people often takes the form of gloomy pride 
and hatred. ..." 

'"''Magdalene^ January 23. — I began teaching to-day; 
the essay was on ' It is the baser part of the soul which 
enjoys success.' I was pleased to find that it evoked a 
good deal of real interest, and I had some rather 
illuminating talks with the boys. Then to lunch. 
Walked with the Master and discussed various schemes 
and cases with great care. . . . 

" Wrote at Morris^ and to hall — after which we had 
a long philological talk about the shifting nuances of 
words: very interesting: and it's a jolly life, when all is 
said and done. It is strange to me to reflect that I am 
now in the ninth year of my freedom, and have been 
given a life which is if anything too happy in its details 
and relations. I won't say that I have been much 
happier than I was at Eton, because my two terrible 
years intervene. But I like the variety, the absence of 
strain, the leisure, with a framework of duties, jar 
better. 

" Murray tells me he has sold 65,000 of my two 
shilling books; and I hear from Smith Elder that they 
have sold in England and America over 120,000 of my 
other books. That is a marvellous fact to reflect upon. 
It seems so odd that I was so dumb for so many years, 

230 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1912 

that I didn't begin to write prose, except for a few rather 
stilted books, till I was over forty, and that then there 
should be so many people who care to know what I 
think. None of the people with whom I live seem to 
care twopence what I think; and yet I have this enormous 
audience outside. It means that about half-a-million 
people are interested in what I say. That's a big audi- 
ence. I can't pretend that I think about the audience 
at all, and still less do I think of pleasing them; but it 
does show that a good many people do look at things 
from the same angle. ..." 

" January 25. — I taught all morning, had some boys 
to lunch. Then rode, with much quiet content, in 
fresher and cleaner weather, round by Haslingfield. . . . 
Went to dine at Trinity Lodge: only the Master, Mrs. 
Butler, Scott Holland* and myself. It was very delight- 
ful. The Master had a cold, but was most benign. 
Scott Holland is a really charming person, so quickly 
sympathetic, so perfectly ready to follow any lead, with 
no idea of taking his own line, but of emphasising yours. 
The Master is undoubtedly garrulous; he tells long, not 
uninteresting stories, with many parentheses and names 
forgotten — the long clue slowly unwinds itself. It's 
a large mild refined, tender mind, quite off modern lines, 
living wholly in the past, and with a curious value for 
distinctions of every kind. . . . His aspect was 
venerable and noble, with a black skull-cap, pointed 
white fingers, smiling wrinkled brow, pale complexion, 
full beard. 

" After dinner the Master read, very finely, extracts 
from books, took us to see pictures at intervals, told 
more and more remote reminiscences, and was rather 
too continuous. But it was all very dignified and beauti- 
ful. Scott Holland didn't get a chance, but whenever 
he did he took it. He is a merry soul and looks very 
plump and well, with no sign of wear and tear. It was 
a memorable evening, such a fine old scholarly gentle- 

* Canon H. Scott Holland, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, died in 
1918. 

231 



1 9 12] THE DIARY OF 

man in such a splendid background; but I should have 
liked to get S.H. to myself. The Master very affec- 
tionate: I was * dear friend/ ' dear Arthur,' and he used 
me as a son, made me help him from his chair, took 
my arm. And I found I was ' Arthur ' too to S.H. It 
was pleasant to be at ease in Zion." 

'^February ii. — I began hopefully; it was a warm 
day, with sunshine. Found Foakes-Jackson robing 
himself in the library, in order to preach. I never saw 
any one so inattentive; he seemed to writhe with bore- 
dom, stared at windows, scrutinised the brasses, read 
calendars. . . . The Master read collects about the 
King's return which seemed to be extracts from the 
Times leading article. . . . 

" Then the Bishop of Edinburgh came in . . . full 
of life and sense and interest. We discussed immor- 
tality — caste — redemption, and a few other trifles. He 
is rather narrow in doctrine, but very wide in sympathy; 
and withal wholly simple, void of pomposity and with 
no ugly self-importance. 

" Then I went off to lunch at Frank Darwin's. I 
liked his secluded house among bird-haunted thickets 
and little lawns and a bit of water — perhaps a little 
rococo, the garden. It seemed miles from Cambridge 
in those white-walled sunny little rooms, in a perfect 
stillness, with no view of houses. . . . Gosse was in 
high form and told many stories with felicitous expres- 
sions. . . . 

" Then Gosse and I motored to Wimpole, and walked 
slowly in the sunny park. He was at his best and it 
was a charming time. Back by Bourn. I put him down 
at F.D.'s and was glad to think he had enjoyed him- 
self. . . . 

" Then to dine at Pembroke. There was a funny 
courtly old Bishop there, dressed in baggy clothes which 
he told us with pride had been Wilkinson's: a dear old 
boy, but not intelligent. W^alpole slipped off to preach, 
Mason followed; then Carter came in from a sermon, 
and so it moved on. But there was a nice Truro atmos- 

232 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1912 

phcre about it.* To think of Mason as the young 
seraphic chaplain, Walpole as a buoyant sort of under- 
graduate, Carter as the rather sad layman, myself as a 
schoolboy — and to be thus united, in all their dignities. 
I did value this all very much, and felt the comfort of 
old and faithful comradeship. 

" Then home, literally sick with talk; then Gaselec 
brought in the Headmaster of Sherborne, and we 
murmured on to midnight. But this cataract of talk 
in one day is awful; and I get a sort of physical horror 
of words, heard and uttered. I stumbled gratefully to 
bed and slept sound." 

''February 14. — To lunch with Winstanley: Denis 
Robertson came, very late. There was a perfectly 
enchanting youth there, with the sweetest of smiles 
and the most gracious of manners, like the son of 
Archestratus. ... I talked too much and too flightily, 
but enjoyed it all. 

" Then a ride by muddy roads; and by Pembroke I fell 
off my bike, which skidded — I tore my trousers, cut 
my leg, banged my knee, covered myself with dirt; rode 
angrily away with as much dignity as is consistent with 
torn clothes and a smudged face. Met Monty James 
as I came along, whose look was sympathetic. 1 washed 
the dirt all away, but became aware that I must die of 
tetanus in three weeks, and spent the evening in a lofty 
and mournfully resigned mood. Limped off to dine 
with Sir J. J. Thomson, f . . . I took in a deaf Ameri- 
can lady with a cooing voice. . . . She could not hear 
half I said. Thomson, speaking to her, shouted like 
the Sons of God — I never heard such a row in a room. 
But the other side of me w^as Mrs. Giles, a nice woman 
and a pretty woman. We always talk confidentially, 
and she admitted that she had first met me with deep 
prejudice, because I was so injudiciously praised by my 

• Dr. G. H. S. Walpole, Bishop of Edinburgh, Canon A. J. Mason, at this time 
Master of Pembroke, and Canon F. E. Carter, Rector of Hadleigh and Co-Deon 
of Bocking, had all served at Truro under Bishop Benson, 
t Sir J. J, Thomson, O.M., P.R.S., Master of Trinity since 1918, 



1 9 12] THE DIARY OF 

King's friends. By whom, I wonder? The comfort is 
to talk frankly, as I can to her; and I really have rather 
a thrill about meeting any one who literally does open 
heart and mind; but she is a flatterer, or at least she 
applies the sort of praise to me which women think men 
like. I confess I was interested and moved by this 
talk. ..." 

** February i8. — I walked alone — round John's walks, 
now full again (and how soon again) with aconites 
and snowdrops. Then by West Road, and finally fell 
in with the friendly Tanner, and mooned about talking 
of architecture and lecturing. He is a fine, able, solid, 
sympathetic creature. He said he was fifty-two — how 
the cataract rushes into the abyss — middle-aged men 
swimming along, grey-headed men on the edge, senile 
locks in the foam! There seemed such an endless well 
of time to draw from; and now it would be a long life 
if I lived as long as from my leaving Cambridge to the 
present time. 

" I went off to Trinity and dined with Whitehead, an 
undergraduate, in New Court — a cold dinner, on a nice 
blue-striped cloth. Two other young men there, so 
sensible and nice. . . . Then to Bevan's, where I read 
my paper to about twenty people. Bertrand Russell 
there, and a strange bearded man who turned out to be 
Lytton Strachey. It was rather a fiasco; I was tired and 
stupid. There was no discussion. The paper was on 
J. A. Symonds. Not worth the trouble — never mind, 
one must just go on." 

^'February 19. — I feel a little discouraged to-night. 
As I drift more and more into University life, I 
drift more and more out of the college. I don't see 
how it can be helped. At my age I am in place on 
Boards and at Feasts, not in place with the under- 
graduates. I don't seem to have any power of inspiring 
them. I don't aim at that, but at companionship, and 
I miss both. ... I think Als Ich Kann is a very good 
motto for my new house. I take up many things and 

234 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1912 

am no good at any one. It's humiliating, but I expect 
it's wholesome — anyhow, there it is! " 

*' February 26. — A great scramble. . . . Fled to the 
station, nearly late: looked over essays and reviewed a 
book in the train. . . . 

" At 1.45 I was at Queen Anne's Gate: a pretty old 
white-painted panelled house, very attractive indeed. 
Lord Haldane very courteous and benign: his sister a 
rather nice, shy woman, but disconcerting, because 
she betrayed by her glances what she was thinking 
of. . . . 

" Lord Haldane carried me off to his very nice study, 
a big airy room at the top of the house: not many books, 
but much apparatus for reading, a swing-desk, etc. He 
sate in a high chair: smoked two cigars and drank 
liqueur brandy, having eaten a big lunch. I broke my 
rule and smoked a cigarette. I stated my case.* . . . 
He heard me very patiently, and his big smiling face, 
pale and intelligent, full of kindness and sympathy, was 
very impressive. He heard me out; then he said, ' I see 
your idea, and I think it would be well to take it in 
hand. , . . ' He let fall many dicta — as that education 
was so dull in details, so interesting in principles. He 
asked me a good many questions, and then said, ' We 
agree in this, that what we want is ideas; the machinery 
is there, and it would not spoil the lite and training for 
leadership, which is the strong point.' . . . Then I 
walked to the War Office with him. He went very slow 
and looked rather old and pinched, as if his heart were 
not very strong. He gave me the idea of great kindness, 
sense, intelligence. . . . Of course he may be only 
diplomatic, but I didn't feel that. He promised nothing 
and did not commit himself; but he was frank, 
sympathetic and encouraging. . . . 

I was a little tired; it was hard work talking to 
Haldane; one felt in touch with a strong and critical 
mind; but I couldn't help being pleased to feel that he 

• On a matter of educational organisation. Lord Haldane was at this time 
Secretary of State for War. 



19 1 2] THE DIARY OF 

was giving my view serious consideration. He said that 
the reason why he had insisted on seventeen for the new 
army age was because the last two years at school were 
so wholly wasted. I had a good hour with him. Odd 
that I should have worked at education for so long, and 
yet I think I may have done more by to-day's talk for 
the whole affair than by all my thirty years of 
teaching. I am not insensible to the pleasure of 
taking my problem to one of the biggest men in the 
country and having real and serious attention paid 
it. I shudder to think what hot water I should get 
into at Cambridge if this bold move of miine were 
known. ..." 

""March II. — I biked to Selwyn Gardens to see 
Verrall.* He lay very still on a couch by a screen, 
with darkened glasses, his hands all crooked out of 
shape; he was silent, and his face all drawn by suffering — 
sometimes like a corpse. But as we talked there came 
the old pleasant laugh, and the interest, and the bubbling 
sense of humour — that made one feel he was there all 
the time, just as lively and eager, only the husk wrong. 
It wasn't so sad as I feared; but it is horrible to think of 
all his pain and weakness. He can surely never get 
back to the world again.'' Yet he is down early, he 
reads, talks, even dictates. But I think he goes down- 
hill fast. Mrs. Verrall was delightful, and I had a happy 
chattering sort of hour. He told me how some one 
once read aloud Macaulay's Chatham to Henry Sidgwick 
— the passage where Macaulay, quite simply and un- 
affectedly, says, * If one compares Chatham with Oxen- 
stierna, Albuquerque,' and about six other names — a 
plaintive voice said, ' But I don't want to compare him 
with Oxenstierna, etc.* 

"... Then there was a Kingsley Club meeting 
here. Williams read a learned paper on the Welsh 
Arthurian legend. . . . But I can't understand the 
caring for these legends in themselves. They are inter- 
esting to me, not for their crude imaginativeness and 

* Dr. A. W. Verrall, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at 
Cambridge. 

236 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 2 

exaggeration, but for the real possible human core in 
the middle of them. 1 do very much want to know 
what kind of a person the original of King Arthur 
was, and what his knights were really like; I don't 
care a bit for the vapourings of childish bards about 
them. . . . 

" Harold Cox is editor of the Edinburgh Review : 
writes a nice note to ask for an article. But I'm not an 
Edinburgh Reviewer. My shallow spirit foams out 
its passion best in 1,600 extempore words, at one 
sitting. . . . 

" 1 am rather dull and melancholy. I can't get the 
strike out of my head, and I don't seem just now 
to arouse the setnina flammae or to chip fire out of 
anyone or anything. I think I am really rather 
tired. My book records that I have had 123 
engagements this term, apart from all teaching — in two 
months. ..." 

" Tremans^ March 22. — I read some Newman 
{Apologia)^ an intensely interesting and pathetic book. 
I discern clearly that he was really an artist^ not an 
ecclesiastic at all. His love of poetry and music 
(he played the violin), his desire for peace and 
affection and approval and -praise^ very characteristic. 
The last meeting with Pusey and Keble horribly 
tragic. 

" I walked alone — two hours' quick walking, varied 
by a hailstorm; the floods are out, the spring flowers 
belated; it is ill-humoured weather. I'm not exactly 
depressed, but I am not cheerful, and in much physical 
discomfort; but I wrote a little study of Newman easily 
and pleasantly. . , . My book {Child of the Dawn) 
looks nice, but no notice, good or bad, is taken of it, 
and I expect it will fall flat. I had great hopes of it, 
and even anticipated a row; but it's going to be a fiasco. 
Well, 1 must try again. I wish I had a definite book 
on hand; but I am piling up a volume of essays and 
writing my lectures on William Morris in a vapid and 
inconsequent way. Tiresome correspondence with 

237 



1 91 2] THE DIARY OF 

irrational parsons, and with a man who proposes that 
I should read quietly and meditate over a MS. book 
of his, then revise and amend it and see it through the 
press: all this because he agrees with my books, thinks 
me a Christian, believes I want to be of use to 
anyone. . . . 

" I am close on fifty, and I suppose the best part of 
my life is gone; but I have some vitality left, I can write, 
I can teach. I might with good luck have twenty more 
years of activity. But one might always die, the idea 
of which is insupportable; and I might have another 
illness. I am not at all likely to marry, or to have any 
more romantic adventures. But I think I am. more 
interested in affairs and people than ever, and I am 
very anxious to help in the cause of common sense, 
work and peace. I am still mildly ambitious. . . . 
But what I desire is to get at the meaning of life. 
I think I am an almost pure agnostic, though I 
believe in Christian principles; what vexes me most 
is to see people holding on to stupid unimportant 
fancies and beliefs, because they have been handed 
down. . . . 

" And I also feel very strongly the duality of my nature: 
a strong stupid slowly-moving old nature underneath, 
which goes blindly and bluntly on its way — and 
a quick perceptive ingenious inquisitive nature above, 
living in brain and eyes, which has no permanence. 
That will die, I think, with all its little memories; but 
the other will pass silently and stubbornly on its way, 
and reappear again, I don't doubt. That is almost all 
that I believe." 

^' Magdalene^ April 23. — Here was a pretty omen! 
As I sate reading at midnight, Gaselee having gone, 
my little clock sounded, ushering in my birthday. 
All at once my fire, which had been unlit all day, burst 
softly into flame! A cigarette-end, perhaps — but it 
was a delicate little friandise. Perhaps I might be 
rich, happy, famous, fortunate in love yet — who 
knows } " 

238 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 12 

''April 24. — I woke calm and serene: had a huge 
pack of letters, even presents — with good wishes and 
blessings from all sorts of unknown people — even some 
plovers' eggs! It's another calm golden day, very sweet. 
I have to go to town. . . . 

" I went. The country was beautiful. I read 
Rupert Brooke's poems, some very charming, some 
strangely ugly. . . . To the Royal Society of Litera- 
ture, where I took the chair, and heard an incredibly 
boring and tiresome paper. . . . Such a dreary party 
of faded persons. I made a speech, and was sketched 
by a little man in a notebook. Then to the Athenaeum, 
where I read, dined, pondered. . . . Failed to catch 
Gosse and came back by the last train. Rather an 
unbirthday-like day; but I have been cheerful all through. 
I don't feel fifrv' — though I notice in myself a dulling, 
not of perception, but of the thrill of perception. That 
is unmistakable; but I am nimbler in mind, and 
I think a little less peevish, ambitious, greedy than 
I was. I don't know. . . . Well, I am a very 
imperfect creature, that's certain ; but I desire to 
be enlarged, though I should like it done without 
discomfort." 

*' June 1. — I went to lunch with Glaisher. His 
rooms in New Court are filled with china. He showed 
us a hideous plate with a rudely-drawn female figure on 
it (1677) for which he gave a hundred guineas! It 
seemed an odd affair. Sedley Taylor, Professor R. (an 
American, father of a Magdalene man), Mrs. R., deaf 
but nice, and a simply enchanting Miss R. — about 
twenty, simple, prett}', so that I really fell quite in love 
with her, and watched her every movement and laugh. 
That is the kind of creature I should like to marry; 
and I really feel what a donkey I am to be fifty, and 
yet never to have had the sense to ask some nice 
girl to walk through life with me. This clean fresh 
pretty lively modest girl would be a delightful partner 
— and yet one is kept off it by stupid moods and 
fastidiousnesses. 

239 



1 91 2] THE DIARY OF 

" We told endless stories — rather dreary. . . . We 
had seven courses and champagne — what a festivity! 
But I was entranced and absorbed with the charming 
Miss R.J and it made me light-hearted to see and hear 
her. Yet this odd emotion will come to nothing. 
Oddly enough I had for the first time been teaching her 
brother yesterday, a pleasant handsome consequential 
young man. . . . 

" So this very busy and pleasant term comes to an 
end. I have written a book, seen many people, worked 
very hard. I have been cheerful and content, though 
craving for more leisure — but I don't pretend not to 
enjoy it. 

" I have given away endless ornaments and pictures 
these last few days, and I am going to sell a lot of furni- 
ture. I have sent all my china to Fred. What a relief 
to get rid of my impediments — I must try never to get 
involved in belongings again." 

" TremanSy June 19.— Heard of the death of Arthur 
Verrall, an old and well-loved friend. He had been 
growing weaker, but got up as usual, and died in his 
study after half-an-hour's unconsciousness. The last 
time I saw him I felt the end was near. He has borne 
great suffering very gallantly, and never lost the beautiful 
zest and freshness of his mind. . . . 

*' I suppose I might be offered the Professorship; but 
I don't want it and would rather be excused. I am 
only an amateur, and it would mean the suspension of 
my activities. I don't care about literature in the right 
way. ..." 

" June 21. — , wrote to me again about the 

Professorship and said he wished I might be appointed. 
But I wrote and pointed out that I was resident in 
Cambridge and doing a certain amount of literary work 
already unpaid, lecturing, teaching, reading papers. It 
seemed to me a pity to waste money upon me; we ought 
to get in an outside force of some kind. It is very hard 
to know one's own mind. I don't need the money, and 

240 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1912 

indeed it would rather diminish my income, as I should 
have to give up a good deal of writing. I am not 
equipped by any knowledge for the post; I know a lot 
in a desultory way about literary biography and modern 
English; I have a gift of presentment; but I am useful 
in the college and do a lot of varied work, all of which 
would have to go. And then I don't really believe in 
literature and criticism, but in something in and behind 
it all. I should hate to be for ever lecturing on literary 
periods, and I couldn't inspire or encourage men enough. 
One would have to be for ever talking big to immature 
minds, presiding at societies, looking at essays. I could 
not do this with any real enthusiasm; I am not an apostle 
of culture at all. Of course all this may be laziness and 
self-will, and if it were offered me I should have to face 
it. But I hope it won't be offered, and that I may be 
allowed to muddle on in my own way.* . . . " 

" Magdalene, August 7. — . . . S. much concerned 
with the Student Christian movement, and has been to 
Swanwick. ... I don't know what to think about it 
all. It seems to me rather a limiting of oneself. S., in 
his old pure-minded guileless insouciant way, entirely 
innocent, not scrupulous, seems to me a finer kind of 
Christian than one who goes to meetings and discussions 
and uses influence and makes people earnest. This 
sort of thing ought to be very spontaneous, or it is ugly 
with the ugliness of all conventional and moulded things. 
These great forces of life, emotion, love, faith — how 
hideous they are when they are run into definite moulds — 
how easy for the conventional Christian to miss the whole 
point of the affair, its easy graceful light-hearted spon- 
taneity! I won't say it seems to me dangerous — nothing 
is dangerous — but it seems like a confession of weakness 
to organise and stereotype Christian endeavour. . . . 
The moment one organises it, ties it up, limits it, 
has a syllabus of it, discusses * Christianity and the 
State ' at 10.30, and ' Christianity and the Medical 
Profession ' at 2.0, that moment it seems to me dreary. 

♦ Dr. Verrall was succeeded in the Professorship of English Literature by Sir 
Arthur Quiller-Couch. 

Q 241 



19 1 2] THE DIARY OF 

I can't imagine Christ going to Swanwick, and having 
four regular meetings and one prayer-meeting a day. 
I suppose that people must take their Christianity as 
they can and will ; but this seems to me a very business- 
like and commercial affair, only fit for people who are 
determined to fit Christianity in, and afraid of its falling 
out if it isn't placed. I think one ought to be a Christian 
through whatever one does and in spite of it, not as well 
as it. It seems to me like organising love and hope, 
having times to love and times to hope. I don't 
know! I don't want to see a man idle and rather 
peremptory and censorious, and then find out he is 
religious as well. I want to find him gentle and 
courteous and kind, and then be surprised by finding 
he is a Christian. . . . 

" D. and R. to lunch; they were cheerful and not 
affected or shy. But Lord, what an old buffer I become! 
In a taxi the other day I raised my eyes, and what a 
cross stout red corrugated old party looked at me 
crossly from the mirror! " 

'' Dighy Hotels Sherborne^ Sept. i. — We strolled after 
breakfast to the school. It is a very pleasant town, 
with many nice buildings of an orange crumbling 
stone; but it has been much mauled, and there isn't a 
sense of the architectural taste of the Cotswolds. The 
Abbey is fine, and an old doorway with valerian and 
wall-weeds growing in ledges and niches was pretty. 
The school has fine buildings new and old, but is rather 
diffuse. . . . We went to the Abbey at ii.o: such 
a rich golden church, with fan-vaulting, so wealthy 
and stately in tone: big congregation, fine booming 
organ, moderate singing: no sermon. Gosse began 
by being bored, but found a Bible and read Job with 
entire absorption, a model of holiness and devotion, 
with the book held to his eyes. . . . As we walked 
back afterwards he expressed surprise that the Book 
of Job should ever have been thought an old book — so 
modern, so rationalistic, so philosophical; it is the 
Biblical Plato. . . . 

242 




R. H. Benson 
A. C. Benson E. F. Benson 



Tremans 
1903 



[To face p. 72 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 12 

" In the afternoon we strolled through the Park, a 
fine domain. The old oaks, growing out of a vast 
plantation of high fern, with deer grazing, had a certain 
feudal charm. But the fine thing was a delicious place 
called Milborne Port (in Somersetshire), a village such 
as Morris would have loved, stone houses clustering 
down to a stream, and a big cruciform church standing 
up among byres and orchards — a quite delicious sight. 
I do love villages and elms and green fields more and 
more. Tried a short cut and failed. Back by Oborne 
and a nice street of substantial houses (Long Street) 
where the Sherborne upper bourgeoisie live. The sight 
of a bare-legged girl under a walnut-tree, driving a flock 
of hens with a switch, delighted me. Then came tea 
and repose. I am happy and contented here; but my 
love of things beautiful and romantic has a little lost its 
sharpness, though not its equanimity of delight. 

" In the evening Gosse read Tennyson; we are 
determined to work through In Meynoriam. But we 
find much of it obscure, pedantic, cold, unemphatic, 
unpoetical. I am rather horrified to find how it has lost 
its charm. Gosse says with a profound sigh, * We must 
never forget that poetry must have charm — the one 
essential '." 

'* Tremans^ September 15. — I am troublesomely lame 
just now. I can't do without exercise — I get stupid and 
brutal. I walked round by Scaynes Hill, meditating 
my story; it opens slowly in front of me, and I have 
the same sense of discovering it, rather than inventing 
it, as I had in The Child of the Dawn. I wrote for 
three hours hard\ then read a little of it aloud after 
dinner, and was pleased to think they found the book 
had some vitality. Then came Compline, which I 
detest with every fibre of my being — the discomfort, the 
silly idiotic responses, the false sociability of it, the utter 
meaninglessness of the whole absurd drama. 

" I must have overworked myself, because on going 
to bed and reading Wells's Marriage I found myself in 
a very odd, unpleasant nervous state, jumpy, unbalanced, 

243 



19 1 2] THE DIARY OF 

as if my mind were skipping about on its own account 
and wouldn't obey me. 

" Wells's book is very interesting — not beautiful, not 
likely^ much mannerised, and spoilt as a book by a piece 
of silly romantic melodrama, the Labrador adventure, 
which is nothing but a transcendental and psychological 
Swiss Family Robinson. But he's a -poet^ little Wells, and 
it's there he scores: not much of a humorist." 

" September 17. — . The Cornishes arrived. The 
Vice-Provost looks healthier and better than I have seen 
him for a long time, less inflamed and of a better colour. 
. . . She was very amusing and interesting. They 
are indeed a wonderful pair, so distinct, so fresh, so fine, 
so distinguished. Mrs. Cornish's determined attempt 
to include all in conversation is fine. I can't recall any 
of her epigrams, but I liked the strong sharp pecks she 
takes at life, like a fowl at an apple, getting home. She 
is seldom what you expect her to be — she is uncharitable, 
unfair — and then unexpectedly poetical and appreciative. 
She casts a light on things. He is very difi^use and 
inconsequent, but he has a clear judgment, too, and isn't 
taken in — and a wide range. . . . They are beloved 
people, and with so much light about them — a fine 
handling of life. ..." 

** Magdalene^ October 14. — Woke oppressed. There's 
an article on my new book {Thy Rod and Thy Staff) which 
says it's like a little girl saying how much worse her 
measles have been than her little brother's. That's 
rather clever and not untrue! I have laid myself open 
to much ridicule; yet there's a flaming trumpet-blast in 
the C.F.N. 

" I went to chapel, to my usual place (there was a 
feather-boa in it!) Then the Master came across, when 
the voluntary stopped, and led me by the hand to the 
President's stall; he was nervous and his hand shook. 
Then he said the formula — * Auctoritate mihi commissa 
ego Praefectus admitto te A.C.B. in locum et officium, 
in titulum et dignitatem Praesidis hujus Collegii, in 

244 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1912 

nomine, etc' — and I bowed low to him. He gave me 
a little shake of the hand, smiled, and the service began. 
. . . The singing was horrible, but I rather liked my 
new place; it's a spacious stall, ttuitwu luerpoi'. I sup- 
pose it's my last and only promotion; and I like a little 
touch of gilding. , . . The Master preached a really 
rather impressive sermon on simplicity — no rhetoric — 
it came out of his own mind. . . . He spoke of 
the multiplicity and complexity of his new cares.* I 
caught Gaselee's eye and we remembered that they 
included two days' shooting in the first week of 
office. ... 

'* I wrote; and then came hall, where I spouted the 
grace and sate in Moses's seat. ..." 

• As Vice-Chancellor of the University, 1912-13. 



245 



XI 

The round of Cambridge, Tremans, Skelwithfold, 
and two or three country inns was followed this year 
as usual, scarcely interrupted save by an occasional 
excursion — to Birmingham, to Norwich, to Upping- 
ham and elsewhere — for the delivery of a lecture. 
He still wrote novels, but still judged them in general 
unequal to the test of publication; he gathered from 
the Church Family Newspaper a number of his articles 
into a volume called Along the Road; and in the autumn 
he gave his fourth series of literary lectures at Magda- 
lene, this year on Robert Browning. Nothing could 
now have induced him to depart from the accepted 
routine of his days, but within it his energy was 
undiminished; at fifty he had a young man's health 
and vigour — health which endured with small atten- 
tion paid to it, vigour which had to be daily absorbed 
in the exercise of his relentless walks and rides. He 
seemed to be never tired and never unwell, and 
perhaps he was as nearly satisfied by life as a man 
could be. 

Yet this is hardly the impression that is given on 
the whole by the diary. From the diary — which, be 
it remembered, is about forty times as voluminous as 
this present selection — it might appear that life 
crossed and vexed him not a little. I am not 
referring to the refrain of his lament over his want 
of leisure, nor to his occasional hours of misliking for 
the nature and quality of his work. These are to be 

246 




A. C. Benson 
191 I 



C. Vanduk 



[To face p. 246 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 13 

freely discounted; he hated leisure, and he loved his 
work too well to turn against it except in a passing 
mood. But it might often be inferred, in these years, 
that the people in his world were a small pleasure to 
him — not the people who casually came and went, 
but rather those who stayed in it, his friends; it might 
be supposed, from the plentiful pages devoted to 
their sins, that his friends were harassing company in 
a life that would have been happier without them. He 
was conscious himself of this propensity of the diary 
to scold, and sometimes he thought of destroying 
the whole of it for its want of charity. But in truth, 
if the volumes are read aright, it can be seen that his 
friends were not denied a particular tribute. His 
pen grew very mordant as it pursued them, but it 
could never leave them alone, never overlook them 
or pass them by; and this must be for the consolation 
of the victims, who will think it a truer compliment 
to be scarified than to be ignored. So much we 
may admit, but it does not follow that we are prepared 
to take our punishment in public — nor indeed that 
we invariably allow its justice. His hand was hasty, 
it was apt to be a word and a blow with him as he wrote ; 
and it was the sharpest word, the most telling blow 
that satisfied him, not always the fairest. It was all 
on paper, however, nowhere else; and presently he 
and these wretches of friends were together again, 
and the shocking pages were utterly forgotten. To 
oblivion as deep they may now return. 

''January I, 1913. — A lot of New Year letters — such 
odd well-meaning people. One man writes to censure me 
for not being more dogmatic; I reply telling him to 
beware of spiritual pride. . . . One lady says she has 
read all the reviews of my book and she feels that 
reviewers have no hearts. So it goes on. 

" I caught an afternoon train . . . and drove to 
St. Paul's. I liked the fine gloomy house,* all shut in 
by warehouses. Mrs. Inge gave me tea, and then 

• The Deanery, St, Paul's. 
247 



19 1 3] THE DIARY OF 

showed me, bare-headed, the way to Blackfriars Station. 
I got to Caxton Hall and sate in a corner. I saw Arthur 
Carr, the Bishop of Edinburgh, and some other buffers 
in the audience. Inge entered very briskly, quite the 
Dean. I thundered out my paper [" Religious Educa- 
tion "] for nearly an hour. It was unorthodox. . . . 
Several people spoke: a wild female in tears, who was 
insane, I think — ejaculating ' the poor children — their 
poor little minds! ' at intervals: a blind parson and some 
nice females. I answered as clearly and politely as I 
could. There were 200 people there, one of the best 
meetings and best debates, Inge said, they had had. 
Then I went off with Inge, and by underground 
to the Deanery. We went up to see the children, 
but my godson and two little girls were asleep — 
but Edward roused himself from a chubby sleep to 
shake hands. . . . Miss Sichel, Simpson (Canon) 
and his wife to dinner. It was merry and intelli- 
gent. ... 

" I slept ill, hearing the great bells beat into the 
room hour by hour." 

" Magdalene^ January 29. — In the afternoon I motored 
out to Eversden and walked home — such a prett)' quiet 
remote village, with a few cottages, a farmhouse or two, 
a crumbling church among orchards and pastures. I 
have a deep desire to live more in such places. It is 
off the main road, hidden in trees, utterly quiet and 
simple. Yet I couldn't live there, I know — my terrors 
would gather about me; yet as a child I could have lived 
there with perfect delight, and never have wished to 
leave the place. Business and sociability have laid 
strange hands upon me, and I can't be happy without 
stir and fuss, though the prospect of busy days nauseates 
me. I hope that before I die I may have a little taste 
of very quiet and still life. The little orchard-ends 
and lanes and cottages seemed very dear and beautiful 
to me to-day; and I believe that life ought to be lived 
on quiet lines. I was very happy there for an 
hour. ..." 

248 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 

''January 31. — A hideous day of impatient work: 
many letters to answer, but I had to teach all morning: 
had men to lunch. Press Syndicate from 2.30 to 6.0. 
Letters again: dined hurriedly and insufficiently: went 
to Newnham. Coffee in Miss D.'s room in Peile Hall: 
a pretty girl, Miss S., and some meagre and shawled 
dons. Then to a big lecture-room crowded with 
Misses. Here I lectured on the art of fiction, and liked 
the look of my audience; it was like preaching to canaries. 
Three who giggled and talked at the back of the room 
disconcerted me. I was then shown out by Miss Stephen 
and the two girls. Rather a jolly pretty business, 
but I am not puellis idoneus. I felt a harmless old 
buffer — I haven't the sex in my heart. Back, and 
wrote letters." 

''February 3. — Off to town by the 4.30: to the 
Athenaeum and wrote letters: found Basil Champneys 
and Sir F. Clay going to the Literary Society. Went 
there myself, the only man in mufti. A big gathering. 
... I sate between Newbolt and Prothero and had a 
really delightful evening — such kindness from every 
one. I expect it means that I am no longer shy, and 
expect friendliness — and certainly get it. I should like 
to think it means literar)' renown, but I feel myself more 
and more unregarded in that respect. I am taken as 
a mild literary hack, who turns out a lot of sentimental 
and rather mawkish books. I am simplv accepted as 
a don with a certain output of writing which men of 
taste don't read. I don't resent this, though I wish it 
were otherwise. I am just labelled as a more or less 
well-known writer; but the result is that every one knows 
just what I am, and they are accordingly civil. I have 
my place, in fact — not a big place, but a definite 
place. ..." 

" February 8. — I struggled with letters all the morning. 
Then two boys to lunch, and a walk with Salter from 
Harlton through Haslingfield; he was ver\' gay and 
amiable. . . , One thing he said which struck me — 

249 



1913] THE DIARY OF 

that my books were not real books, didn't represent my 
real self — that it was a sort of pose (he didn't use the 
word), a mild kind religious sort of atmosphere, while 
in real life I was brisk, profane, worldly. It is true that 
my books represent my lonely thoughts and moods, and 
that in ordinary intercourse I am different. I am too 
anxious to get on friendly terms with my companions. 
But the books are much more real than the talks. I 
have no real use for humour and amusing things — those 
are things to -play with — and though I expect the impres- 
sions are different, yet there's no insincerity. . . . 
Anyhow I can't help it. There are two quite distinct 
things in me, my social self and my solitary self, and 
they are very different. . . . " 

''February 11. — Went off at 2.45, much fussed 
and leaving loads of work behind. I had my hair 
cut, and then to the Deanery [Westminster]. Had 
tea with Herbert and Mrs. Ryle; then sate a little in a 
nice panelled parlour, used by Robinson as a private 
study, with a closet opening on the nave. . . . Then 
dressed. Lord and Lady Fortescue arrived, the former 
shy and nervous, in red ribbon ; Lady F, most charming — 
she said she was never allowed to see me at Eton, be- 
cause Ebrington always said, ' Mr. Benson hates mothers.' 
A Count William Bentinck there, a nice youth. Then 
Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck arrived, he in 
red ribbon and star, she very pretty and charming. . . . 
Then came the Duchess of Albany, very stout and 
cheerful. . . . 

*' At dinner the Duchess, who was next me, was full 
of kindness and mirth . . . advised me to marry, the 
right person, asked about my books, gave me advice just 
in the old motherly way — she is a real dear. . . . 

" Then to the Abbey, so grand in the glimmering 
light, with a little mist floating in the vault. I sate 
under the lantern. There was a lovely programme of 
music — Arcadelt, Bach, Wagner, etc., played by Bridge, 
with some vocal music — one or two pieces with bells 
(really metal bars), which he was very keen about, but 

250 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 

which I thought hideous — out of tune, and the percus- 
sion notes not blending with the wind-notes. But the 
music steaHng or rolling through the aisles, the faint 
light, the high dim windows, the ghost-like monuments, 
were as beautiful as anything on earth could be. The 
best we can do! . . ." 

" March 7. — Burne- Jones* wired to say he was coming 
down; I asked him to lunch here. Taught all the 
morning. He came to lunch — very amusing. . . . 
Then he went to the Fitzwilliam, and I had a short, 
sharp ride by Coton. Back at 3.15, and we went to 
the Dolmetsch concert of ancient music in the hall. 
We sate in the galler)', behind Lady Braybrooke. The 
place was crowded with odd and faded undergraduates — 
from King's: the dais full of strange, brightly-painted 
harpsichords. Dolmetsch, a man of sixty, a mass of 
grizzled hair, pointed beard, low collar: Mme. D. 
dressed as in a Medici picture: and a tall grim 
lady in a blue shawl, who sate gloomily in the 
background. . . . 

*' Dolmetsch showed his lutes and viols and talked on. 
' The old people used to make music for themselves, 
in a room just such as this. Now we pay to hear noise; 
we do not hear music, it is noise we hear! What I am 
going to play to you is awfully beautiful, awfully simple, 
but really quite beyond the reach of the modern people.' 
He described the instruments. . . . Then some odd 
tinkling things were played on virginals and lute — 
sounds as if one had shaken up a cage of mice and 
canaries together. . . . There were just one or two 
lovely things, a duet for two viols, a recorder solo; the 
rest was very barbarous, I thought. But the thing 
interested me — the strange pose, the unreal air of the 
whole, and yet the certainty that these odd creatures 
really lived in their absurd art — a curious mixture of 
admiration and despair, with a strong desire to giggle. 
It was all so real and yet so fanatical, as Dolmetsch 
glared over his recorder, or sate with his mop of hair 

• Sir Philip Burne- Jones, died in 1926. 
251 



1913] THE DIARY OF 

tinkling on the virginals. Such an odd world to live 
in — it reminded me of Evelyn Innes. We went away 
after Part I, the absurdity of it being uppermost. The 
collection of people listening with grotesque earnestness 
to these very odd sounds, the deliberate antiquity of it 
all, the sweeping aside all the progress of the art — it 
interested me as a revival of what the old world called 
music — and the sense that they probably found the 
same emotion in it as we find in the new music. It is 
all a symbol, of course; but few people there understood 
that — they thought it was the thing itself which was 
beautiful. . . ." 

''March 15. — At i.o I drove to the station and 
caught the 1.37. ... A great north-west gale blow- 
ing loud. The Brandon country is delicious, with its 
bare heaths and pines, and streams of sapphire blue, 
wind-ruffled, among pale sedge-beds. Then it became 
Norfolk, an attractive country. ... So to Cromer, 
where I was met by a car. It was awfully cold. I 
liked the look of Cromer^ its gay red houses among the 
little sea-woods, and we went by pleasant wooded roads, 
through sparsely inhabited lands [to Holt]. I found 
Howson, got tea, went to the hall: delivered a lecture 
on Hans Andersen, wholly without nervousness. The 
boys looked very jolly. They are so friendly here. The 
captain of the school came up and talked, and a vivacious 
handsome boy, Graves, son of C. L. Graves, came to 
ask questions. Then back to dinner. . . . A lot of 
masters came in to desert. We smoked and discussed 
the prospects of the school up and down till 1 1.30. . . . 
I like the way in which the boys walk in at any time, 
to ask questions, even during dinner. Howson is a 
good host, not fussy, genial. . . . 

*' I am glad to have done this; it's tiring, in a way, 
but my nerves seem to be strong. ... I am glad to 
find the masters feel confidence in me. Howson 
introduced me to the school as one who worked very 
hard for the welfare of Holt, mostly in the background ; 
and it is interesting to have to do with a place like 

252 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 

this. It is a good little break, a wash of outside 
interests through the mind, and the sight of all those 
jolly handsome friendly boys did me much good. I 
am to come down and address them in chapel next 
term. ..." 

^' March 17. — I went round my garden with Don- 
caster, who, like God in Paradise, pronounced it all 
to be very good. Then lunched alone, and rode off in 
bright sun and high wind along the Huntingdon Road. 
It was slow work. There came a blackness out of the 
north-west, and then ghost-like sinister wisps of grey 
cloud, whirling and forming and vanishing on the black 
background; then hea\y snow, flying along the ground. 
I turned aside to Boxworth for shelter, in the well- 
warmcd church, full of pretty Kempe windows — but, 
oh dear me, how depressing to see exactly the same 
figures and patterns and faces over and over again — 
the same mild old men, eyes far apart, woolly-haired, in 
the same heavy copes — not a single detail of face or 
robe or colour that one hasn't seen a hundred times 
before. How could the old man go on turning it all 
out everlastingly? But I suppose that's just what critics 
might say I am doing. 

*' I got back drenched through and through with 
melted snow; wrote a paper called * Prophets of 
Baal ' . . ." 

" April 24. — My fifr)--first birthday — a quite lovely 
day. I had a charming picture sent me by Mrs. R. — 
some flowers, by an Italian — a book from Maggie . . . 
and other books and letters. I had a busy morning of 
writing, much interrupted. Then in the golden after- 
noon a long vague ride out to Whittlesford, blest with 

peace. I find I have forgotten 's review already! 

Then some writing. Monty James, Gaselee, Salter to 
dinner: much talk and laughter, and cards later — so I 
had a very happy birthday. I didn't look backwards 
or forwards. I have got my work and my place and 
my friends, and I must just peg away. I'm abundantly 

253 



1913] THE DIARY OF 

contented and very much interested in life as it 
comes." 

** June 10. — The Vice-Chancellor, full of affairs, 
came to see me at breakfast and arranged that I 
should attend at the Lodge for the great men to sign 
their names. ... At 1.30 I arrayed myself and went 
off. The recipients of degrees arrived one by one. 
Wagner, the great political economist, who became 
famous by suggesting the annexation of Alsace, is an 
old weary leaden-coloured red-eyed man, hung all over 
with orders, frail, tired, sparsely-haired. He is a peer 
of Prussia — but what a sorry sight ! — he looked like an 
old purblind maggot. I wouldn't come out of my 
dignified retirement in Germany at the age of eighty 
to receive a degree in England. There was a jolly 
admiral, Fawkes, in full uniform — a calm, genial big 
man, who looked very solid and splendid, and quite 
capable of defending the country. . . . Sargent, a big 
burly sanguine man, with large rather protruding eyes, 
might have been an admiral too, or a city man — not a 
bit like an artist. Hardy (in a LL.D. gown by mistake) 
looked very frail and nervous, but undeniably pleased. 
. . . Then we all adjourned to hall. I read grace 
sonorously, and found myself at the end of the high 
table, between Sargent and Hardy. . . . There were 
two or three brief speeches. Then we adjourned for 
coffee; and then my car came up, and I helped shambling 
Doctors in and sent them off. 

" When they were all gone I flew back, changed, and 
rode into the country—very sweet and fragrant. I went 
to Comberton and back. But my nerves are in good 
order, and I didn't find the ceremony at all trying — 
so that I didn't wish to be out of the busy world 
at all — rather amused indeed by the fuss and show. 
. . . It's new to me to find myself being pointed 
out as I walk about, and seeing myself much 
observed. It isn't a very lively satisfaction — but 
how grand I should have thought it twenty years 
ago. . . ." 

254 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 

" Tremans^ Jt^ne 27. — writes me a much- 
injured letter; he protests that I asked him his opinion; 
he says he grieves to see my beautiful power of expres- 
sion not engaged on something * tougher and tighter.' 
But he protests his devotion, though he says he is vexed 
that I should so often have to talk and think harshly 
of him. 

" To all this — which is rather morbid — I reply that 
I never think harshly and only talk pettishly because 
I am vexed to see him so quiet and decisive. I explain 
that my whole attitude is that of mortified vanity. I 
began very unambitiously — then had some successes — 
then an ad captandum move. I compared myself to a 
nigger minstrel rolling his eyes and capering and waving 
bones — and people just looking through him. 

" Oh dear, I wish I knew what it all really was. I 
have a quiet spirit in some ways; but I suppose we have 
all a touch of something morbid and not quite controlled 
— as Maggie's collapse shows — which papa had, but 
coupled in him with great physical strength. There is 
a touch of diseased self-consciousness about us all, I 
think. 

" My own real failing is that I have never been in 
vital touch with anyone — never either fought anyone or 
kissed anyone! Like Dmitri Rudine, I can neither be 
soldier or lover — and this not out of any principle, but 
out of a timid and rather fastidious solitariness. Then 
I have an appetence for success — or for sensation, at all 
events — and don't want to take trouble. I have quick 
perception and a love of beauty, but I can't finish or 
perfect anything; and so a sort of ineffectiveness is very 
legible in all I do — something inevitably there; and I 
don't like to be confirmed in this suspicion, however 
tenderly and faithfully. That is why I am so provoca- 
tive; but I don't think it grand or dignified, quite the 
reverse. Just now I'm not epris with anyone — 
and that's a part of my unhappiness; though I'm not 
unhappy in the technical sense at all, only vaguely 
disquieted and feeling as if I were losing time every 
day. ..." 



19 1 3] THE DIARY OF 

''August 3. — *Lord R. Cecil went off in his 
motor. Jack Talbot went off, too, and I was taken to 
task for saying to him, ' I'm glad to have met 
you again,' as too American — but it was natural 
enough. Then looked at the visitors' book, which 
is full of pleasing sketches; I see I was last here in 
1903. Talked to Robin Strutt. He told me a good 
story of false induction. A man at Trinity, in the 
attics, used to play a piano very badly; his neighbour, 
whenever he did so, got out of window and put a 
slate over his chimney; and the man consulted his 
scientific friends as to why his playing on the piano 
always made the fire smoke. . . . Then my car 
came and I made very cordial adieux and rolled off 
through the village. ... I was back [at Cambridge] 
before i.o: read letters and papers. I am rather 
tired. 

'* But I liked my visit, though it was hard work. I 
wish I could listen more equably; but I feel I have to 
work hard and to get into relations with all the party. 
That is my bourgeois way. But I don't think I want 
to be liked — I rather desire just to be as acceptable as 
possible at the time — to take my part. I find I can 
talk orij the whole more coherently and even amusingly 
than most; but I don't much want to — it is a sort of 
strain, a performance. ..." 

" August 25. — I read the life of Ruskin, and think it a 
fine book, rather too detailed in places. It's not much 
good going into details about his artistic work; the 
thing is to give a picture of his frenzied and harried 
industry, and the charm of his outer life all the time. 
Ruskin is a curious instance of a man whose success was 
wholly due to his impassioned autobiography; but the 
British public is such an ass that he ostensibly owed his 
success to the fact that he came solemnly riding in upon 
the philosophy of art. He explained nothing and 
synthesised very little; it's only a logical statement of 
passionate preferences. But the B.P. has got to think 

* At Terling, in Essex, staying with Lord and Lady Rayleigh. 
256 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 
that it must be taught something definite, worth th' 



money. 



" Tremans^ Sunday^ August 31. — Hot and heavy, with a 
warm rain faUing which rustles in the trees. I slept 
deep and long last night, with infinitely mournful 
dreams; but that clears off the irritability that comes of 
light and broken sleep. . , . 

" In the afternoon I walked somewhere, meditating 
on my stor}^; wrote a passage: then came dinner, and the 
tiresome Sabbath Evening. We have talked all day and 
at ever)' meal, and yet it is now impious to play a game — 
we must sit and talk! The thought of compline always 
weighs heavily on me, and reduces me to sulky despair; 
it was as awful as usual to-night. The solemn gathering 
for such a ceremony — that twelve ordinary people should 
cry out in concert ' Thou shalt go upon the lion 
and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt 
thou tread under thy feet ' — seems to me a sort of 
idiocy. It isn't true as a statement; it isn't poetical or 
uplifting. I can just understand one beautiful voice 

reading it aloud; but when it's a pack in full cry ! 

Fancy reading ' Swiftly walk over the western 



wave so 



" Hugh and I had an argument; he admits that he 
himself is not much ' hampered ' by services, but he says 
they represent the idea of corporate worship. Well, I 
can understand combining for pleasure^ as at a dinner- 
party of chosen friends, or combining for use^ as at a 
meeting to discuss some point about which one wants 
different views, or for action^ where numbers tell. I 
can't conceive combining for ceremony^ unless one likes it. 
I don't believe that such worship is more pleasing to 
God than the croaking of frogs in a marsh; and I should 
have thought that if it's a mystic kind of rite, one wor- 
shipper who hates it, thinks it ridiculous, wishes he 
wasn't there, must break the circuit. Hugh says it 
may be that one has grown out of it — and I certainly 
used to like ritualism — but it may also be atrophy. I 
don't think it much matters whether one grows superior 

257 



19 1 3] THE DIARY OF 

to mountain climbing, or too stout for it — it comes to 
an end naturally enough." 

** September 4. — A hot windy day; I'm still a little 

edged, I find. Wrote in morning, some of these d d 

Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board reports having to be 
rewritten. Then after lunch I walked alone by Birch 
Grove, and a delightful wood-path up to the Danehill 
road. . . . 

** Then wrote fiercely, and not only got on, but saw, 
glimmering through a haze of words, the end of my 
story ahead. The novel was begun in June, here — 
10,000 words were written. Then I wasted much of 
July and August in writing a shapeless book, 40,000 
words, on ' Fear.' Then I wrote 33,000 words of the 
novel at Cambridge. Then I came back here, and in 
nine working days I have written fully 25,000 words — 
and I foresee six more chapters, say 20,000 words 
more." 

'* September 7. — I must have written 45,000 words 
of my novel in the last fortnight, I think. Is that 
possible.'^ It isn't very bad. It wants some smoothing 
down. 

" I walked alone. . . . But I was stupid and heavy- 
hearted. All the same I wrote a very energetic bit of 
my novel, the best scene I have yet written, and I really 
think dramatic ; thus leaving myself with only one more 
chapter to write, as the book is planned. It may 
need two." 

" Ludlow J September 15. — I was wakeful, but not 
unhappy. At some dim hour there rang out a knell, 
accompanied by the howling of a dog. I slept again 
and woke to a day of bright sun. ... I wrote a few 
letters : had a comforting one from Percy, surprised that 
I ever feel futile! I seldom feel much else, but I twirl 
plates, like a conjuror, so that the * awful inner sense ' 
supposes that something must be going on above. . . . 
The only shadow on my mind is that IVatersprings 

258 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 13 

is published to-day, and I fear may be thought a foolish 
sort of book. . . . 

*' A lot of letters, mostly from well-meaning admirers: 
a touching one from a girl, unnamed. It is odd to be 
regarded as a well of light and comfort. Perhaps if 
I valued it more, as Oliffe said yesterday, I should do 
better. But I like to have a free hand and I don't 
respect art, and I don't value influence — so that between 
these three stools I fall to the ground. . . . 

" It has been a pleasant time here. I have done very 
little work and have been much in the air. Oliffe has 
proved an interesting if provoking companion, and I 
think he has enjoyed it. It is a friendly and well- 
managed hotel; but our sitting-room is noisy, and there 
has been a great passage of visitors. Still, I have been 
well and mostly cheerful, though anxious and a little 
cumbered with cares." 

''Magdalene^ November i. — Dined at the Lodge at 
8.0: the only guest Thomas Hardy, who was very simple, 
merry and comfortable. We discussed the ceremony of 
installation*. . . . The Master was afraid that Hardy 
might dislike a religious service. But Hardy said that he 
wasn't afraid of a service or a surplice; he used to go 
to church three times on a Sunday; it turned out that he 
often went to St. Paul's and other London churches, like 
Kilburn, and knew a lot about ecclesiastical music and 
double chants. He had ordered a complete set of robes, 
too — bonnet, gown and hood. This restored the 
Master's confidence. We sate and talked and smoked; 
and the old man wasn't a bit shy — he prattled away very 
pleasantly about books and people. He looks a very 
tired man at times, with his hook nose, his weary eyes, his 
wisps of hair; then he changes and looks lively again. 
He rather spoiled the effect of his ecclesiastical knowledge 
by saying blithely, ' Of course it's only a sentiment to 
me now! ' He said something like ' I wish you had 
some name for the college to avoid confusion with 

• Mr. Hardy had been elected an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene, and had 
rome up for his admission. 

259 



1913] THE DIARY OF 

Magdalen Oxford.' I corrected him and said, * You 
ought not to say you^ you must say we,^ He chuckled 
at this and said, ' Very well, we and our college.' " 

" November 2. — I went into the library at 10.25 ^^<^ 
found Hardy in a surplice, with a gown (scarlet) over it. 
Gaselee was perturbed and said, ' We must try to think of 
it as a ca-p-pa magna.' The Archdeacon of Zanzibar was 
there, an odd mixture, in appearance, of a woman, a 
Chinaman, and a seminary priest. We formed a 
procession, and the Master asked me to join it. He and 
Hardy went up to the altar; the men stared at the little 
figure, all ablaze. . . . The Master admitted him in 
Latin, standing by the altar, walked down with him., and 
put him in my old stall. There was a temporary 
organist who played badly, and the music was horrible. 
The Archdeacon preached rather well, on God being a 
God of desire^ who both hated and loved — not a mild 
or impersonal force. 

" When we came out I took Hardy to my house, 
and he, as a former architect, was amused at my devices. 
He sate for half an hour and talked. He said he was 
amazed at my output. He said he couldn't write now, 
only a bit of verse at intervals; he was ashamed of his 
little book of republished stories and surprised at its 
good reception. I said that I wasn't an artist, only an 
improvisatore — no quality in my work. He said, ' Oh, 
you must leave other people to say that, if they choose.* 
He looked tired, but bucked up, and I walked back to 
the Lodge with him. . . . 

*' At the end of dinner the Master proposed Hardy's 
health in a few very nice words; we rose and drank it. 
Hardy sate there beaming, drank and nodded back, but 
didn't speak. . . , He said, * I should like to think I 
should come here often, and I mean to — but the flesh is 
weak! ' I liked the old man very much, so simple and 
confiding. He told me he had enough verses for a book, 
but he didn't know whether he ought to include it 
in some verses he wrote when his wife died — ' very' 
intimate, of course — but the verses came; it was quite 

260 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 

natural; one looked back through the years and saw 
some pictures; a loss like that just makes one's old brain 
vocal! ' . . . 

" November 28. — I went off to town: at Fishmongers' 
Hall had some talk with various people: luncheon and a 
Sanatorium Committee. . . . 

" We went down with Inge to Caxton Hall*. . . . 
The speakers took seats at the table — Yeats, Hewlett, 
Raleigh, myself, Binyon. Raleigh opened and intro- 
duced Masefield; Hewlett made a very ineffective little 
speech about Mrs. Woods. Then I bawled my pane- 
g}Tic of Inge — he didn't hear a word, and Gosse clapped 
me as if he were scaring birds. Binyon made a neat 
little speech about Beerbohm. . . . James Stephen 
was the [Polignac] prizeman: a little man with upstanding 
hair, like a pixie or elf, came up and took his cheque. . . . 
Inge and came and said he would try to live up to my 
words; and after a few more scrappy words I got 
away to the Athenaeum, where I dined and read 
books." 

" December 4. — I read an article on rhetoric in the 
Times, which opened a door to me. How odd those 
suddenly opened doors are — I saw in a sudden flash that 
the thing to do in writing is not to argue, not to concern 
oneself with opponents — just to dip up what water one 
can out of one's own wells and leave it. The only 
fine things come out of the lonely part of the mind, out 
of the region where one loves and hopes; the stale things 
come out of the place where one jostles and scores off 
people. I don't make vows now; but a suggestion 
like this sinks into the mind and bears fruit in due 
season. . . . 

'* I received a fixed offer from the Century — /!200 for 
five essays, and a book to follow. 

" Then a hurried ride in wind and some rain by Hasling- 
field — fresh and chill. Then I began to write an essay 

• Meeting of the Academic Committee of the Royal Society of Literature and 
admission of new members. 

261 



19 1 3] THE DIARY OF 

for the Century: dined in hall, a very friendly little party: 
and went to Quiller-Couch's symposium — about forty 
men, all round the room, smoking and whispering. 
Two little papers were read, and I liked the calm 
humorous way in which Q.C. raised points; I shudder 
to think of doing it — but he did it well. There wasn't 
much talk; I hazarded a few remarks, but I think I 
rather oppressed the party. I had been told that I was 
to be * drawn ' by the Kingsmen, but anything less like 
baiting I never heard. The affair hadn't much vitality, 
but it is a good thing to start. The room which I 
furnished and replenished is nice enough, with my 
books and shelves. ..." 

" December 6. — I had a note from Ainger telling me 
of Spencer Lyttelton's death, to my great grief. I had 
known him some thirty years, ever since '84. He had 
a wonderful way of making one feel that he welcomed 
one and enjoyed one's presence, and that it was a natural 
and genuine delight to him; this gift is denied to many 
more strenuous and virtuous people. I used to be 
afraid of his gruff manner, his ' Hah ! ' or his downright 
* You appear to be totally unacquainted with the matter * 
— but grew to realise his real tenderness and sweetness, 
always fresh, but which increased with years. His 
handsome, rather grim face used to melt from within, 
and his eyes become kind. 

" The Times says rightly that he was always an 
amateur, at politics as well as cricket. He never struck 
me as having any intellectual principles, or views, or moral 
aims; he had not thought out anything and didn't know 
what he thought. He was interested in travel and 
personality, and all he did was in the style of the accom- 
plished amateur. He read a great deal — why, I never 
knew — books flowed over his mind like water. But 
though he was idle, unoccupied, inhospitable, and in a 
way selfish, yet he never became peevish or fanciful 
or cross-grained or faddy — always just as simple and 
boyish and active. And on the whole I expect he 
did more to make a great number of people happy than 

262 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1913 

hundreds of people of the typ^j with far nobler 

programmes. 

" He was a humble man, for all his assurance. It 
is very strange that he should be gone; he seemed built 
for many years of life; but it's a happy passage. I have 
the letter he wrote Ainger on November 21 about an 
operation — ' It is an unexpected blow, but it must be 
faced.* He was operated on on Monday, December i, 
and he died on December 5. That is the way to leave 
the world. ..." 

" December 21. — . Wrote an article — not very good; 
I am stodgy. I found a very unpleasant attack on 
my writing in the British Review; I am complacent, 
condescending, superfluous, otiose, it seems. I am well 
aware that I am not among the writers of the day. I 
don't attract; my vogue is over for the time. I have 
got my own little public, and cater quite simply and 
peacefully for them; but it is a priggish, sentimental, 
solemn, ineffective sort of public. ... I don't 
suppose that the very busy life I live now does help 
my writing; but I don't see at present how to 
disentangle myself from business; and it gives me 
variety of experience, as well as some health of body 
and mind. . . . 

It is curious, as Percy says, that I can't get a certain 
acidity of perception and a derisiveness of phrase into 
my books. In my books I am solemn, sweet, refined; 
in real life I am rather vehement, sharp, contemptuous, 
a busy mocker. But I am also somewhat of a fatalist. 
However, I am going to try to leave the Lx)ng free for 
writing, and to have a subject ready to begin upon. . . . 
I think I ought to be able to write rather a good story — 
if I weren't really so /azy: that is the main trouble, my 
hurried exuberance. ..." 

** Tremans^ December 3 1 . — A photographer arrived, 
and we were taken in a group exactly as we were taken 
ten years ago, in the same positions. I found that I 
still had the very same coat in which I was photographed 

263 



1913] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

before ! It is the photograph which has been constantly 
reproduced. , . . 

" The end of the year- — I don't like to forecast any- 
thing or to make resolves. I have had a touch of my 
depression to-day — just a hint that it was there; but I 
exorcised it by work. I was awake at midnight. 1913 
has been a much-abused year, but it has been good to 
me. I have been well and busy; I thought I had made 
a new friend, but I am in doubt now about this. And 
so I say good-bye to it as I do to a host when I have 
been kindly and punctually entertained." 



264 



XII 

I9I4 

Some pages from the diary of 19 14, before the out- 
break of the war, will show that the mood of dis- 
satisfaction with his life and work continued to haunt 
him; but this was a mild and transient melancholy 
which had nothing in common with the miseries of 
his years of illness. He might sigh to think that his 
artistry still fell short of his vision, but in both he had 
an unimpaired delight; these last months of the old 
life at Cambridge were prosperous to the end. There 
was indeed one perennial anxiet)' elsewhere, gradually 
increasing; it was the condition of his sister, whose 
mind had never fully recovered since the beginning 
of her illness, seven years before. All this time she 
had been living away from home, near London, seeing 
very few people, but among those few always her 
brothers, who visited her constantly. For a while it 
was hoped that she might eventually be restored to 
normal life; but there now came a change for the 
worse in her state, and in the course of the next 
months it grew evident that she had not long to live. 
Arthur was to see her again, but very rarely, before 
she died in 19 16. Her long illness was a sorrow 
upon the life of Tremans that was borne by her 
family, and first of all by her mother, with courage 
unexampled and unfailing; but during all these years 
the strain of it was never relaxed. 

And in the autumn of 19 14, soon after the begin- 
ning of the war, came the entirely unexpected blow of 

265 



1 9 14] THE DIARY OF 

the death of his youngest brother, Father Hugh 
Benson, at the height of his eager and crowded career. 
Arthur, in the book that he soon afterwards devoted 
to Hugh's memory, has described how he was sud- 
denly summoned by the news of his brother's illness 
to Manchester and how he was with him when he 
died. They had been friends, even intimate friends — 
outspoken, argumentative, disagreeing violently, 
always enjoying each other's society. Except opinions 
they had much in common; they were alike in their 
quick humour, in their facility and curiosity, in their 
power of attracting and attaching other lives while 
remaining entirely disencumbered in their own. At 
Tremans, at Cambridge while Hugh was working 
there, and at Buntingford, within reach of Cambridge, 
where he had lived latterly, they saw each other often, 
and never without enlivenment to both. It was not 
in either of them to cling greatly to the past or to 
miss the absent deeply; but perhaps there was no 
companion more interesting to the elder brother, none 
with whom he was on easier, happier terms, than this 
one whom he now lost. 

" Magdalene^ January 1 1, 1 9 14. — I had a quiet morn- 
ing, with no thought of church and only thankful there 
was no chapel. At i.o Salter came, and Peel, and Mr. 
Sylvester Home, the Congregationalist M.P. — he is a 
rather handsome man, with a troubled and self-conscious 
air, but very pleasant and talkative. . . . At 2.15 we 
went into the court to see Salter go to the sermon as 
Proctor; he appeared in cassock and tippet, with bull- 
dogs behind, quite a stately little figure. As we went 
back Home said to me, * I must thank you for your 
many books — you are a kind of chaplain, you know, to 
many of us I ' . . . He seems to have a great effect at 
Ipswich over his radicals. I am ashamed to recollect 
so little of his talk, but I can only remember what / said, 
so I won't put it down. He struck me as civil and 
tolerant in talk, though I fancy he is fierce enough in 
principle. ..." 

266 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1914 

^* January 21 — . To town at 4.30. I went to 
Whitefield's tabernacle: met a few unknown people in 
a little ugly room: then was taken to a vast pulpit, where 
I was left alone — 1400 people below and in great 
galleries. I lectured, standing, for an hour on Lewis 
Carroll. A timid reluctant audience, and I felt it was 
all very flat. ... A little crowd, with an album or 
two, to see me off, hats raised, polite bows; but it was 
all a vague and dream-like affair. I was neither nervous 
nor tired: back by midnight, and to bed. . . . 

" Since then, oddly enough, I have had a letter from 
the Lecture Agency, offering me engagements at [/lo 
a night; the secretary says he hears my Whitefield's 
lecture was a very great success, that it is the most 
difficult of audiences and that a person who can hold 
that can hold anything." 

" January 29. — I had a tremendous tussle with letters 
and cleared them off pro tem. Then men to lunch, and 
biked by Hardwicke and Toft in fair content. Then 
I wrote a little. Went to Caius, and read a paper on 
' Essays ' to a large, shy, friendly, appreciative gathering. 
There were a few questions and I answered with some 
liveliness. But it isn't quite my line; I'm not myself 
in a big gathering, and tend to an odious smartness. 
I liked some of the young men; two of them walked 
back half the way with me; and it was a pleasant 
affair. 

" Read two fine articles in the Quarterly. One by 
Inge on St. Paul, a very fine brave candid study, full of 
light — his change of thought and his adventurousness 
well brought out. Also an excellent article on Samuel 
Butler, by Desmond MacCarthy — full of good points 
and interest, though making rather an outcry about his 
greatness. He was a very ingenious man, with clear, 
rather perverse ideas — a sharp and humorous critic, but 
not, I think, a man of much atmosphere." 



'■' January 30. — I went to dine with Clarence Buxton, 
a charming youth, in the University VIII, full of 

267 



1 914] THE DIARY OF 

good temper and kindness. His uncle O'Rorke, an 
old colleger who was a boy in the school in '85, was 
there — Jim Butler, Willink, Sedgwick, T. Buxton. . . . 
I didn't frankly much enjoy it. I tried some elderly 
sparkling, but I don't do that well; I am extremely self- 
conscious and shy with younger people who are inclined 
to listen deferentially and rejoice unto me with reverence. 
They wanted me to shine and they laughed at my stories ; 
but I felt on the wrong side of the river. They made 
it as nice for me as they could, but it wouldn't do. The 
rooms were in Neville's Court, fine panelled places: 
C.B. a charming host, full of grace and courtesy and 
entirely simple." 

'^February i. — A most brilliant, provocative and 
amusing sermon from Waggett, about reality in life, and 
the coming democracy; it was full of good points and 
all so easily and finely done — highly artistic. He said 
in the course of it that he didn't suppose there would 
be a revolution — only some unbending Tory Head of 
a House might be hung from a lamp-post, (The 
Master objected to this afterwards, and Waggett said 
he was thinking of Shipley!) I'm not sure if such 
sermons do good; Salter objected to it. It was over 
the heads of all but the cleverest, and was felt perhaps 
to be simply fantastic. But it was full of good 
stuff. . . . 

"Then lunch: out with Jones: a lovely spring day, 
fresh winds and clean skies, the snowdrops out in 
sheltered shrubberies at Shelford. We talked amiably 
and gently. Then a scrap of writing. . . . 

" Dear me, how I hate Sundays here: days with no 
point, full of services — I went again to chapel, from which 
I neither got nor hoped for benefit — and endless twaddle. 
But I suppose there is something in it; at least one can't 
work. A long and pleasant letter from Madan, which 
made me happy." 

" February 13. — I worked hard at letters all morning. 
Then off to Oxford: read and dozed and enjoyed the 

268 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 14 

scene. I like the bit between Bedford and Blctchley, 
with the low hills to the south. It came on to rain. I 
drove straight to Balliol, and in a hideous court, climbing 
high stairs, found Madan in ugly comfortable rooms. 
His father turned up, ver>' full of talk, and we sate for 
an hour. . . . Then I had a vision of beautiful houses, 
old walls, lighted windows, high domes and porticos of 
crumbling stone. It's an enchanted cit)' — one ought 
to spend more time there. . . . 

" Went to Grove Place, to a funny little shut-in house 
of Livingstone's, a Fellow of Corpus, with a young self- 
possessed wife — Sidney Ball, an old Wellingtonian — 
Schiller, the philosopher, amusing and brisk, once at 
Eton — and Pye, a nice Fellow of New. We dined 
comfortably, with strange orange wine, in a little parlour. 
I liked to hear Schiller and Ball talk a little philosophy; 
it is pleasant to feel out of one's depth. Then to Corpus 
— raining hard. The hall quite full of undergraduates, 
with some ladies. I discerned Geoffrey Madan at a 
table and caught his eye. Then I spouted an address 
on education. It was well received; they listened like 
mice, laughed, applauded me tremendously; a few 
questions asked, to which I replied as best I could, 
without any sense of nervousness. , . . Back to hotel 
and soon to bed: slept fairlv, among manv far-off 
bells." 

" March 2. — My little book on religion grows. It 
is both frank and shallow, but I have tried to say what 
I believe in it. . . . 

" I went up to the Church House. Our meeting 
was amicable:* Bishop of Ely, Dean of Wells, Dean of 
Norwich, Nairne, Mackail: Dean of Wells a little 
passionate. . . . 

" I lunched at the Athenaeum. . . . Came down at 
7.55 to go with Basil Champneys to the Literar)' Society, 
when I found the Archbishop in the newspaper room. 
He held his hand out and said, ' My dear boy! ' in a way 
which pleased me much. He had been intending to go 

• Committee on the revision of the Psalter. 
269 



1 9 14] THE DIARY OF 

to Grillion's, but he said he would come with us. A 
big party. ... I sate by George Trevelyan and found 
him quite delightful. But I had a very wholesome and 
rather humiliating feeling of not being quite up to the 
mark in that mundane assembly, which made me shy 
and apologetic. . . . They know what is going on, 
and I do not. I rushed off at 9.30, but missed my 
train and didn't get in till midnight. Speechlessly bored 
in the train, cold and alone, and the light too dim to 
read by." 

" Lygon Arms^ Broadway^ March 31. — The hunting 
man came down to breakfast with a sort of table-cloth 
apron, so as not to stain his cords: what cannot people 
wear with dignity, if it's only the proper thing! The 
party of women is galvanised into life and health by the 
arrival of a stupid hearty man. . . . We lunched, and 
it cleared up mto a softly-shining, hazy, sweet spring 
day. 

" There followed one of the most beautiful afternoons, 
in every way, that I can remember. We raced across 
the plain to the village of Grafton, on the skirt of Bredon. 
A dear old silvery-haired, blue-eyed dame, in a cottage 
garden full of wallflowers and daffodils, with a pear-tree 
spread on the wall, in a steep narrow lane, gave us a 
note of the way, and we were soon on the broad back 
of Bredon, with dim and rich views every way. They 
were hunting up there, and the red coats of the hunts- 
men on the covert-edge were gay to see. We walked 
on, over soft turf. G.M. was in high spirits and per- 
fectly charming. I did my best to entertain him; and 
I can only say that of all the young people I have ever 
known — and the charm of youth increases to me as I 
get older — he is the very sweetest, most frank, quickest, 
most sympathetic I have ever known. He is so clever 
that he understands instantly without any need of com- 
ment or of explanation — and his mind seems to run in 
the same channels as my own. I have never known 
anything quite like this before; and though he is 
emotional he isn't any more sentimental than I am. 

270 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1914 

I don't think I ever talked more openly and naturally 
of what I believed and didn't believe. It was a really 
marvellous experience, and I am as grateful for this day 
as I am for any of the beautiful days of my life. I do 
not think the impression will ever fade. We sate down 
on the edge of the hill, above a nice bit of tumbled 
forest-ground with thorn-thickets; then on to the top, 
where we made a cache of coins in a limestone boulder, 
like children. . . . We found the car, and watched 
a glorious old man in a blue cloak, very old and feeble, 
with a face like an apostle in an ancient window, big 
features, large lips, sunning himself. Then back 
by Elmley Castle: saw one miracle of colour, an old 
brick dove-cote of the cruciform kind in a farmyard — 
I never saw richer red, or a more orange-lichened 
roof. 

" Home, tea, work, dinner and cards. But I can't 
reproduce the extraordinary happiness of the day, nor 
how the talk seemed to flow out of the real reservoirs 
of the mind. I am partly, I know, susceptible to the 
beauty and grace of G.; but it's a fine, rather austere, 
critical mind, not fluid or subservient, and at the 
same time with great feeling and wide interests. I 
can't attempt to recover it — but I felt that he was 
happy and unafraid, and I don't think he felt it to be a 
strain. ..." 

''Magdalene^ Easter Sunday^ April 12. — I decided 
to go to King's — sate in the ante-chapel. ... A few 
imbecile, wild, officious people in the nave; one 
woman eyed a small book in her hand hungrily and 
intently, and sang wolfishly; a foolish elderly man 
handed about books; a young man talked and gigg^led 
to a young woman. The music was very characteristic — 
hymns with tubas, like streams of strawberry jam, and 
gliding intermediate chords, gross, like German cookery. 
As for the service, there was no mystery about it, or 
holiness — it was no more holy than a Union Jack — it 
was loud and confident. But old Smart in F was charm- 
ing enough, a strange mixture of levity and sweetness. 

271 



1 9 14] THE DIARY OF 

Altogether it wouldn't quite do; it was very beautiful 
both to see and hear, but had no wisdom or depth about 
it. I had no impulse at all to pray or weep. And yet 
one must not neglect the fact that people come together 
for it, sit through it gravely, without smiling — even 
believe in it! . . . 

" I had two very feminine letters this morning, full 

of sweetness, from and . I see that the way 

to win women is to ask for their sympathy in calamities 
which you do not explicitly specify. That evokes at 
once their curiosity and their sympathy. Is that a 
cynical remark.'' — I don't know — I think it is true. 
Yet I don't undervalue sentiment! 

" I felt this morning that though I am happy enough 
my life is very unsatisfactory. I seem to be floating 
about experiencing most comforts and prosperities, and 
yet always on the surface of everything. Love, religion, 
art, ambition- — I have an inkling of all, yet have never 
dived to any depth or been carried away. I have never 
been in love; I have abandoned myself to luxurious 
sentiment, but never ' hungered sore ' ; I have never 
really had a personal mystic apprehension of God, never 
understood art, always at the last moment despised 
ambition; and the other side of that medal is that I have 
always been really preoccupied with myself. But how 
is one to get out of such preoccupation.? If any one 
will tell the human race that, he shall be made a saint. 
The difficulty is to be on the whole contented, like 
me — and yet to know that nothing has ever been 
really and vitally experienced, and probably never can 
be; and yet I can form a better idea of it by 
observation and imagination than most people. I 
suppose it is the artistic temperament without the 
artistic vocation. 

" I dined in Trinity at the Easter Feast, in Combina- 
tion Room — a mixture of state and fussiness! ..." 

''April I 8. — I went to look at the National Portrait 
Gallery and fell in with Shane Leslie. ... I gave 
him my impressions of Manning — that he was a 

272 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1914 

small man and unscrupulously set on personal power. 
Mr. Gladstone always said that if Manning had been 
made a Bishop at the right moment he would have 
ended by being Archbishop of Canterbury, and we should 
never have heard of Infallibility. ... I strolled round 
the gallery and saw Millais' portrait of Manning, like 
an animated skull. Newman very plebeian and feeble. 
Many very interesting pictures; but what a wretched 
painter Watts was — many of his portraits are daubs — 
he came off about once in ten times. Millais' Carlyle 
is tremendous — such a peasant^ just like an old 
apple-cheeked farmer. . . . The worst of the gallery 
is that the best pictures are of nonentities, like 
Romney's Cumberland, and the great people are 
often represented by amateur scrawls. The finest 
creatures of all, like Shelley and Keats, are the most 
dishonoured. . . . 

" Back to the Athenaeum, and fell in with Henry 
James, very portly and gracious — a real delight. I had 
tea with him, and he talked very richly. . . . He 
complimented me grotesquely and effusively as likely to 
incur the jealousy of the gods for my success and efficiency. 
He little knows! My books are derided, my activities 
are small and fussy. I said this, and he smiled 
benignantly. 

'* I asked him if he was well. He said solemnly that 
he lived (touching his heart) with a troublesome 
companion, angina pectoris. * But you look well.' He 
laughed — ' I look^ my dear Arthur, I admit I look — but 
at that point I can accompany you no further. It's a 
look, I allow.' And so we said good-bye; he shook my 
hands often very affectionately. I have a feeling that 
I shall not see him again. ..." 

** Skelwithjold, June 29. — The Archduke Franz 
Ferdinand and his wife killed at Serajevo. It would 
be absurd to grieve over it. He was a curious, 
dumb, reserved, uncomfortable sort of man, with plenty 
of physical courage, but no attractiveness. They are 
gone anyhow — and I wonder where and what they are. 

s 273 



1 9 14] THE DIARY OF 

That is the thing which interests me, and not the Httle 
ant-hill we leave behind. 

" We started pretty early, and after a dip into Amble- 
side for parcels we went along by Coniston and the 
Broughton road. Lunched by a pretty farm; these old 
thick-walled untidy places, with all their jolly litter and 
little orchard-closes and stone-stepped granaries and 
climbing roses, are quite delicious. Then C. and I set 
off, by Woodland station, among little fields and knolls 
and copses — very few houses. We found lots of 
butterfly orchis and pyramidalis with its sweet smell in 
a marshy patch — and then by a lonely road over fern- 
covered hills swept by drifting cloud. . . . and finally 
down to Lowick Bridge, where we found the car: a 
very beautiful walk, full of character. So home by 
Brantwood. . . . 

" A mass of letters : poor writes to condole with 

me on a savage attack, she calls it, on my writings, in 
the Academy. I should never even have heard of it 
but for her sympathy. But I'm off my vogue just 
now, I think. I am supposed to be successful and 
complacent — and I expect there is an irritating 
quality about my writings of which I am unaware. 
They say that I write for Suburbia, and that is 
partly true. Well, I must maunder on as best I 
can. ..." 

*' Magdalene^ July 3. — Off to town— cheered, in the 
midst of such contempt about my books, by a very warm 
appreciation in the Bookman of Where No Fear Was, 
I have settled, I think, not to go on with novels; it isn't 

my line. writes me an insolent letter about The 

Happy Threshold — says it will do me harm and bring in 
no profit — so much thrown away. I have three whole 
books on the shelf now, which will be wasted, I fear. 
But I still pant after glory, and I have an idea that 
I may still write a good book. My practice is 
incessant, and I have a use of words; moreover I have 
heaps of things bubbling in my brain to discourse 
about. ..." 

274 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1914 

" 'July 6. — Lunched at the Athenaeum with R, J. 
Smith* and had a talk about plans. . . . He was 
very kind and gracious. I talked about money, and 
happened to say that I wanted money — I was ^^3,000 
overdrawn at the bank. He looked at me for a moment, 
and then said, ' Ah, you must let me help you in that — 
let me make you an advance.' This was truly kind — 
but I explained how it all came about. He then drew 
from his pocket a tiny notebook, with poetry written in 
a most minute square hand, almost like printing, with 
pencil titles scrawled in. The original titles were all 
personal, like ' Robert to Helen.' This was the original 
MS. of Emily Bronte's poems, and it gave me a great 
thrill. I was interested to find in ' Remembrance ' that 
the original reading in the last line but one was ' Once 
drinking deep of that <^^//^/^/^^ anguish,' with ' delighted ' 
scored out and * divinest ' written in — ' divinest ' simply 
makes the poem. The scrawled titles were Mr. Nicholls's. 
R.J.S. asked me if I would edit and write a little preface 
for a new edition of the poems. I should like to do 
that. ..." 

^' July II. — Rupert Brooke came to dine — very 
handsome, but more mature since his travels. He has 
been in America and the South Sea Islands; he lived 
three months with a chief at Tahiti. We talked of 
many other things. He told me he had offered to help 
Quiller-Couch in English next term. ... It was 
altogether an easy and friendly evening, and I was con- 
scious of his liking me — he had invited himself. I don't 
feel epris about him, but I think he is simple, clever and 
charming." 

" July 12. — P.L., after inviting himself here for a 
Sunday, calmly says he can't come; he finds, I think, 
more amusing guests at home. This is the aristocratic 
handling 1 I sent him a post-card with a quotation from 
Boswell — ' When the King had said it, it was to be 

• Reginald John Smith, of Smith Elder & Co., a friend of A. C. B.'s from his 
school days and the publisher of many of his books. 



19 h] ARTHUR CHRISTOPFIER BENSON 

so. It was not for me to bandy civilities with my 
Sovereign.' . . . 

" A little letter from Howard Sturgis, vexed at my 
throwing him over — I was to have lectured at Eton, but 
I am let off — and saying he can't come here. There is 
certainly something rather irritating about mel It is, 
I believe, that I don't really care about people deeply— 
and that comes from my finding visits and occasions a 
great strain. I don't know why they are a strain; but 
I anticipate them with anxiety, and I am tired by them. 
It is that I can't be serene; I play up all the time. I can't 
use a friend's house like an hotel somehow; I feel respon- 
sible for things going well. This does perhaps help 
things to go well, but it makes it hard work for me. 
Unfamiliar rooms, new ways, unknown servants — all 
these weigh on my mind. But it is an unamiable 
quality — and I pay for it." 



276 



XIII 

I9I5— I9I7 

The war found Arthur Benson no more prepared for 
it, intellectually, emotionally, than it found many 
another, and indeed in some ways he was less capable 
than most of discovering how to think or feel in the 
presence of the catastrophe. The world outside his 
own had meant little to him until now; beyond the 
circle of his work, his habits, his kind, he had seldom 
looked, and when it was suddenly broken into by the 
world without his bewilderment was complete. He 
was not alone, it is easy to remember, in his sense of 
being left utterly at a loss in the first strangeness of 
those times, while the whole face of the life that he 
had known was changed — and life was nowhere more 
swiftly changed than at Cambridge, in a place founded 
upon the concourse of youth and now bereft of its 
youth at a stroke, from one day to another. And yet, 
though to one so fixed in his familiar ways the stroke 
might seem cataclysmic, nevertheless it was a man 
like Arthur Benson who could in a manner most 
readily adjust himself, perhaps, to the new terms upon 
which life was now to be lived. He had for so long 
fitted his days and years to a precise pattern that in 
their outer figuration they soon fell again into its 
lines. There was plenty to be done within it, even 
now; Cambridge was to be kept alive until its youth 
returned to it, and to this, the evident task of a man 
in his position, of his age, he gladly addressed himself. 
It was a practical work, and it occupied him to the 

277 



191 5] THE DIARY OF 

full. As to thinking and feeling in such times, that 
was another matter, and to him — as again to many 
another- — a far more difficult. He never mastered it, 
and before long he was content to drop the problem; 
the war, it always seemed, left no mark on him at all. 
He worked away as usual, writing, lecturing, attend- 
ing to the business of his many committees and 
syndicates; and though Magdalene, like other colleges, 
was now practically empty of undergraduates, it 
was presently to be repopulated by successive 
batches of officer cadets, quartered at Cambridge 
for courses of instruction, and he gave and got 
much pleasure in welcoming and entertaining them 
as they passed. 

Two events befell him in 191 5, both of them 
closely affecting his life, and the first of them a sur- 
prise so remarkable and so felicitous that I am glad 
to believe the story may be told without indiscretion. 
For some time past he had been in constant corres- 
pondence with an American lady, personally unknown 
to him — a reader of his books, living abroad — with 
whom a friendship had grown and prospered, always 
by letter, until there were few of his friends on the 
spot who entered more fully into the interests and 
occupations of his life. This lady now put to him 
a request; it was that he should accept from her the 
gift of a considerable fortune — it was no less — to be 
used by him in any manner and for any purpose that 
he preferred. An offer so generously conceived 
might have been impossible to accept; and at first, 
deeply as he was touched by such a signal of goodwill, 
he felt that he could only refuse it. He did refuse 
it; but it was repeated, and again repeated, not with 
generosity only, but with such considerate grace that 
at length the gift passed from the one to the other as 
simply as a birthday present between old friends. It 
had a double result. It meant that from now onward 
he could indulge his liberality to his heart's content, 
enlarging his schemes for the benefit of his college 
while he lived, providing for their maintenance after 

278 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 5 

his death. And also it meant that his unseen friend, 
during his later years, held a place in the intimacy of 
his daily life which no one else approached; for no 
one else was so uninterruptedly his companion in 
everything that he thought and did and planned to 
do. They never met at all; but the perceptive 
sympathy of this lady, joined with that of her family, 
appears henceforward as a recurring note in the diary 
to the very end. 

The other change in his state, this year, came with 
the greatly-mourned death of Stuart Donaldson, 
Master of Magdalene since 1904 — who on October 
24 was seized with sudden illness while he was 
ministering in the college chapel and died within a 
few days. There never was a man of more genial 
charm and more transparent goodness than Donaldson, 
and he left for his monument the enhanced name and 
fame of Magdalene, which in so large a measure was 
due to his devotion and enthusiasm. There could be 
little doubt in any mind as to his successor; and before 
long Lord Braybrooke, in whose hands the appoint- 
ment lies, had offered the mastership to Arthur 
Benson. In the war-time depletion of the university 
the change made no great difference in his duties; but 
it pleased him to feel that he was welcomed to the 
dignity by the whole college, and congratulated by 
all his friends. 

Two volumes of collected essays. Where No Fear 
Was and Escape; the tale, or imaginary portrait, called 
Father Payne \ the sketch of his brother Hugh, 
and the Life and Letters of his sister Margaret: 
these were his chief publications during the first three 
years of the war. He also put forth, under stricter 
anonymity than usual, a little volume of reflections 
in war-time. Meanwhile. This last was one of several 
small books, of different dates, which escaped notice 
and were never generally identified as his work. 
There were many of his more popular books that he 
attempted to disguise in the same way, though with- 
out success, and it may be wondered why he cared 

279 



19 1 5] THE DIARY OF 

as he did to court concealment of his name. Perhaps 
he hardly himself knew why; but it came back, no 
doubt, to that odd discrepancy between the man whom 
his friends knew and the author whom his public 
knew, and to some distaste for an inconvenient mixing 
of the parts. Friends who did not read his books, 
a public that knew nothing of him personally — such 
was his choice; and though in both respects his choice 
was denied him, he continued hopefully to bury his 
head in anonymous publication. But it was only 
when his books, as in this case of Meanwhile^ attracted 
no attention at all that the blank title-page was any 
shield to his identity. 

^^ Magdalene, February 5, 19 15. — A free day: many 
letters and much controversy. . , , More and more I feel 
that my mistake has been to philosophise about the war. 
I don't see widely enough or know enough. My only 
chance is to go on at my own business. The war is a 
cosmic affair, and I am an individualist. The papers 
delude one into thinking that one takes a cosmic view. 
The only help is to work away at one's own limited range. 
To try to take a wide view merely means that one be- 
comes diluted and weltering. It is as if a man gave up 
shoemaking to reflect about the war. Let him make 
the best shoes he can! ..." 

''April 21. — Off early. ... I read The Joyful 
Wisdom (Nietzsche), but felt neither joyful nor wise. 
London was very beautiful, so full of light and colour. 
Wrote letters at the Athenaeum. . . . 

" I lunched with Heniy James, who kept on being 
entangled by voluble persons. . . . H.J. was very 
tremendous; he looks ill, he changes colour, he is dark 
under the eyes — but he was in a cheerful and pontifical 
mood. He ate a plentiful meal of veal and pudding, 
but he spoke to me very gravely of his physical condition 
and his chronic angina. . . . We went down together, 
and he made me a most affectionate farewell. He is 
slower and more soigneux in utterance than ever, 

280 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1915 

but leaves a deep impression of majesty, beauty and 
greatness. He said that his life was now one flurried 
escape from sociability, but he valued a glimpse of 
me.* 

" I had a little talk to Hardy, who was in town and 
spoke affectionately of Magdalene. . . . So I was well 
entertained. 

'* An hour of business with Welsford, who gave me 
tea. Walked to Liverpool Street; the city was very 
sunny and delightful, looking in the absence of all dirt 
and smoke more like a little country town. So to 
Cambridge. . . . 

" A great pile of letters. I come back rather tired 
by my holiday. I meant not to write, and I have written 
copiously. I dislike taking up this stupid and meaning- 
less business over again. I want quiet and freedom and 
relief from feeling the pressure of ugly spiteful hostile 
elements in the world. One can't escape them, I suppose, 
except by a sort of drowsy serenity — but that, for 
me, contains other dangers. I don't see my way clearly 
at present. . . . And yet I feel a certain potentiality 
inside me, as though I had things which I could say and 
do, if I knew how! ..." 

" Skelwiihjold, June 29. — I have enjoyed my time 
ver)^ much; but I have had enough, I think. I 
want to get back to work. . . . Writing is my busi- 
ness, not administration or teaching. I don't do it very 
well, but it's the one thing in life for which it seems 
worth while making arrangements and even making 
sacrifices. It's the congenial thing. I tend more and 
more to group my life round it; and all the other things 
are simply diversions or distractions or contrasts or 
reliefs. This applies to all my college work and 
administrative work. The truth is that writing is 
a passion^ and it is worth while sacrificing everything 
else to it. It's a hard mistress in some ways, and it 
gets me into rows; but it is more and more clear to 
rne that it is my real life, through which I see 

* This was their last meeting. Henry James died in February, 191 6. 



19 1 5] THE DIARY OF 

and view everything else — even friendship, even 
death. 

" I had a talk with A. who regretted I hadn't gone 
to Eton — thought I organised and commanded easily — 
evidently thinking that to give up such faculties for 
writing was a mistake, almost a sin. It shows, of course, 
how little is thought of my writing — but I don't value 
any such success at a pin's point beside my writing. I 
live first to shape thought into word. The thought 
may be weak and the word garish, but like Pitman in 
The Wrong Box I am an enthusiast, I am aiming 
higher. ..." 

" October 4. — In the afternoon I mooned out against 
a high wind to Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck — 
it is a pretty region. Wrote a little more at Mean- 
while — but it is finished; Murray is to publish it secretly. 
But I haven't a subject and I want one badly; I am rather 
stale — full of vague ideas, but I want a definite one. 
Dined alone off a cold duck, and read Martindale's* 
chapters, which are very good. It shows Hugh in all 
sorts of vivid lights, mostly by quotations from letters. 
His intensity comes out, his extraordinary lack of insight 
about people, his power of extrication. Hugh's hard- 
ness was a strange thing. . . . He was an artist of a 
fiery amateur kind; he wanted to express himself in a 
dozen media. But it was the expression he liked. . . . 
His prayers, offices, meditations were, I believe, all part 
of the game. I don't mean he did not make moral 
choices — indeed 1 think he was feeling his way to a fine 
and simple way of life, something much finer than the 
Catholic way. . . . He loved Catholic controversy; 
but his religion was one of artistic values, I believe." 

" December 9. — At ten o'clock I went to chapel with 
Gaselee and we took down the mourning — purple 
cloth on the Fellows' stalls, with cords, and curtains in 
the Master's stall. Arranged the ceremony and talked 
over the business of the College Meeting. . . . 

* Life of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, by C. C. Martindale, S.J. 
282 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 5 

"At 2.10 we put on our gowns and went to the 
librar)'. All the Fellows were there, Salter in khaki. 
, . . At 2.15 Jacob shouldered the mace, and we walked 
in, two and two, Braybrooke and myself last. I showed 
B. to the stall on the Master's right, and then took the 
President's stall. Peskett then read the Deed, from the 
stall on my left; a menacing document, requiring and 
enjoining the Fellows to receive me. Then, in a tone 
of resignation, he read the sentence I had written, " We, 
the Fellows of Magdalene, receive and accept you, 
A.C.B., to be and become Master of this College." 
Then, still using my form of words, he required me 
to promise to obey the Statutes. I repeated the 
form of words and promised obedience. Then I 
stepped out into the gangway; and Peskett, following 
me, took my hand and placed me in the Master's 
stall. . . . 

" It was like a strange and pleasant little dream, so 
short, simple, and orderly. . . . Then I saw Braybrooke 
off, and then Mont)' — I was glad he was there. I 
thought of our old walks at Eton together and our old 
hauntings of chapel and St. George's; it seemed strange 
that he and I, as Provost of King's and Master of Magda- 
lene, should thus have a charming little fulfilment of 
old dreams. But now it seems like a beginning rather 
than a fulfilment. 

" Then the College Meeting began. ... It was 
all very peaceful and harmonious, ever^'one in the friend- 
liest of moods. I think we all felt a great relief that we 
were not having to welcome a stranger to rule us. We 
had tea, then sealed a document, and I signed the book 
as Master. Then back to my study, and wrote letters. 
At 7.45 to hall; only a few undergraduates: but the 
servants had set out all the plate and I had provided 
champagne. All the Fellows and the chaplain present; 
we had a most friendly meal. I sate between Peskett 
and Ramsey at the end of the table, and read grace 
(wrongly). Then we sate upstairs and talked, and at 
9.15 broke up. A very happy and peaceful day for me, 
full of goodwill and kindness. ..." 

283 



19 15] THE DIARY OF 

** December lo. — Had very strange dreams. It was 
a great open-air party, in the dusk, at Wellington 
College, in the Lodge Garden. Geoffrey Madan was 
there, in uniform, very slim and graceful and much feted 
by everyone. He gave me a little smile, and I felt, 
* What a comfort that we know each other and that I 
need not pay court to him.* Then followed a play, and I 
was asked to take part. I hummed and hawed, but G.M. 
came up behind me, leaned on my arm a moment and 
said, ' I hope you will — just to please me.' So I con- 
sented, and had a scene where I was an elderly enchanter, 
like Prospero, with a young and beautiful girl, like 
Miranda. This dialogue was a part of it: 

P. Wilt hear a secret? 
M. Ay, I love secrets. 
P. I will tell thee on a May morning. It is a 

charm! Wilt hear a tale,'* 
M. A merry tale? 
P. Nay, there are no merry tales. 
M. A sad one, then? 
P. Nor sad neither. Merry and sad are for 

gods, not men. 
M. What tales else are there? 
P. Real tales, girl ! 
M. What is it to be real? 
P. To be empty! Things have no bottom in 

them. We fall through them into the void. 

' I woke at this moment, and the dialogue was so firm 
in my mind that I scribbled it down. ..." 

" Tremans^ January 3, 19 16. — I wrote a bit, and then 
drove in the victoria, very slowly, to the Bryces.* There 
were gleams of sun: artillery practising on Ashdown and 
an awful mess made of the heather. The views from 
Hindleap are enchanting — the soft purple of the leafless 
woods, the ridges to the south, with interspaces of soft 
shade and flying smoke, most lovely. The house is a 

* Viscount Bryce, O.M., died in 1922. 
284 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1916 

funny high-minded little place, like a professor's house 
in Grange Road. A very donnish drawing-room, prim 
and useless, with china and sea-shells in white compart- 
ments. . . . Br}'ce is enchanting, so old and crumbling 
and hairy, but so simple and sweet-tempered and kind. 
. . . He walked briskly off with me, in thick shapeless 
grey clothes and a funny black hat. There was a fine 
sunset coming. We went through his pines; the garden 
careful, but lacking in charm. He walked very quickly, 
down to T\syford. . . . Then he said he must get 
back, said how much he had enjoyed seeing me, asked me 
to propose myself at any time, his old battered face all 
alive with kindness and sweetness. He is a dear old boy 
and evokes my very real admiration and affection. That 
is what I would become — simple, modest, kindly, full 
of gentleness. ..." 

Something has been said on an earlier page of the 
mixture of feeling which for more than ten years had 
kept him away from Eton. If there had once been a 
trifle of bitterness in that feeling it had long since evap- 
orated, but he had formed the habit of refusing to see the 
place again, and only an urgent call could have made 
him break it. The call came in this year. His old 
friend Cornish, Vice-Provost of Eton since 1893, ^^"^ 
ill and infirm and not far from his end, wished to see 
him, and he went to Eton accordingly for the day's visit 
described in the following extract. The habit, thus 
broken, was fortunately not resumed; he was seen at 
Eton again before long, staying with Ainger, and in 
later years yet again. 

** April 3, 19 1 6. — A memorable day. It was a fine 
spring morning, but I was much depressed at what was 
before me. . . . To Paddington by i i.i 5; the landscape 
more and more familiar. Then we were at Slough, and 
then gliding over the viaduct and looking all the familiar 
buildings in the face. The Castle very grand, but a 
house opposite the Curfew Tower gone, like a gap in 
teeth. I got out feeling rather dizzy with emotion, 

285 



19 1 6] THE DIARY OF 

but like a revenant. Drove down in soft sunshine along 
the old street; the first sight of the boys in their ridiculous 
dress — yet looking so handsome and fine, many of them 
— moved me a good deal. 

" I certainly couldn't have had a sweeter day to 
revisit the old affair: twenty-seven years of my life — 
i.e. exactly half, so far — spent there. I had some 
happiness there as a boy, but no experience, and as a 
master some experience and not much happiness. But 
it isn't my native air at all. It represents an aristocratic 
life, a life pursuing knightly virtues — chivalry, agility, 
honour, something Spartan. I am not like that at all; 
I like the poetical, epicurean, tranquil, semi-monastic 
life. I haven't the clean fresh sinfulness of the knight; 
I am half bourgeois, half monk. I was never big enough 
to embrace and overlap Eton. This could be done by 
a large-hearted and fatherly man, because it has the 
petulant and inconsiderate faults of youth ; and such an 
one could have extended to it a fatherly and amused 
tolerance. But I was always a little afraid of it and its 
mockery, without ever respecting its ideals. I was 
glad to get away. Now that I go back after a gap, I 
see its pretty paces and ornaments — it bounds along 
like a greyhound — it has no virtues, only some 
instincts. 

" I looked in at Luxmoore's house. . . . Then 
through Brewer's Yard, up the shallow staircase of the 
kitchen, by hall — the old sights, the old light sudden 
warmths and coolnesses, the old smell of what? — bread 
and beer, I imagine. 

** Then into the Vice-Provost's. I was shown to the 
drawing-room. There to my surprise was dear Cornish 
— I had thought of him as bedridden, but he was dressed 
and much as usual, sitting in a chair, with his thin legs 
so oddly hinged. He didn't even look ill. . . . He 
shook hands and talked easily and discursively — his 
voice rather low, and with a thickness of intonation which 
made him not easy to hear always — with allusions and 
quotations and flights, all in the old way. Mrs. Cornish, 
with mysterious velvet streamers tied beneath her chin 

286 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 16 

(attached to what? — I can't think), had a witch-like air, 
but very benevolent and amiable and full of plans and 
consideratenesses. Presently men came and took 
Cornish out of his armchair and put him in a carrying- 
chair. . . . He said to me with a smile, * It is so 
strange to be carried about in a tray! * I said, * Okes 
never minded it.' ' No,' he said, * it was so much more 
normal for old people then.' We saw him put in a 
bath-chair, drawn by a little boy. I walked beside him, 
and we went out of cloisters into the playing-fields. . . . 
Margaret would have left him, but he called out loudly 
that she must return. * Three is the best number — 
I have always preferred three — it allows one to be 
dummy! ' . . . Saw the lean determined figure of 
Ainger moving far ahead. Lots of new buildings at 
every turn — and always the same charming drift of 
boys, like fine bloodstock, saluting Cornish respectfully 
and looking at him curiously, not sympathetically at 
all. I remember seeing old Dupuis drawn about, 
and how I looked at him, hardly dreaming that he 
didn't prefer it, or that he had ever been or felt young 
like me. 

" We came in to lunch; Ainger joined us. We found 
Walter Durnford looking over papers in the library; and 
indeed, all the time there were so many confused talks 
and interviews with so many people that I can keep 
little account of them. 

'* We had lunch — oysters, cutlets, macaroni — excel- 
lent. Poor Cornish sate by the fire apart, bungling over 
his own affairs, hardly heard. We at the table talked 
away. Then I had a few words with Mrs. Cornish, 
who so hoped Hugh Macnaghten might be Vice- 
Provost. . . . 

" Mrs. Cornish spoke very curiously about Cornish. 
She said, a little sharply, that he thought so much about 
ultimate problems — death, immortality. * A man ought 
surely to have found a solution by his age,' said Mrs. 
Cornish, with that acrid ring in the voice one knows. 
Then she went on, * He has always aimed too much at 
tranquillit)' — his books are always about tranquillity-.' 

287 



19 16] THE DIARY OF 

* Yes,' I said, * but with decided tenacity and even com- 
batancy in his own handling of Hfe.' She looked at me 
penetratingly and said, ' Yes, that is true — Frank has 
that.* She shifted her ground a little. ' He wants to 
spare himself suffering — he doesn't believe in suffering — 
he says it has a bad effect on him.' Then she added, 

* He doesn't understand its mystical effect, its effect on 
life, its outward flow, even when it is silent, unseen, 
unsuspected. What do you think.'' ' (with sudden 
ferocity). She went on to say that he had been frightened 
by doctors, did not read because of sensations in 
his head, liked being read to — Walter Scott and 
Dickens (very scornfully) — ' We don't keep up, you 
see! ' . . . She spoke bravely and even interestedly 
about all. . . . 

" In the playing-fields we saw, on Poet's Walk, a 
white-haired woodman, wielding an axe over the 
prostrate trees. ' Who is that fine-looking old man? ' 
said Mrs. Cornish. A group of boys were watching 
him curiously and derisively. It was Edward 
Lyttelton! ... 

" Well, Eton seemed to me like a curious dream — 
rather heavenly — light, warmth, beauty, kindness — but 
not real at all: a good deal of sadness, too, the old trees 
fallen and the old men falling, though Luxmoore and 
Ainger seemed hearty and strong. But the sight of 
Cornish, in a tiny dark study, no book or pipe, alone, 
by a dying fire, seemed to me full of disgrace — an enemy 
hath done this, I felt." 

''Magdalene^ May I2. — I had beautiful dreams of 
Maggie, smiling and gracious, and full of little ironies 
and fine sharp touches. . . . 

" Up to town: met W. P. Ker, the great professor, 
at the Athenaeum, who asked me to lunch with him. 
He is a curious little fellow, red in nose and cheek, with 
a strange network of minute congested veins: a twinkling 
eye and a much-controlled thin mouth, infinitely dry. 
We tried to secure a double table, but all were full. 

* We must be sorry to find every one so greedy,' said Ker, 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1916 

A mild man, the colour of freshly-made milk-cheese, 
came up, just as we had found a table covered with 
debris — 'evidence of a deceased lobster!* said Ker 
mournfully. . . . Ker and I discovered we were each 
lecturing at 5.30. ' It's hard that we should be the 
only two people in London who may not hear each 
other,* he said. He ate and drank freely — ' a large 
glass of golden sherry.' He told a story of a young 
Irish priest, chaplain to an Archbishop, who lunched 
with a politician and Father Healy. The chaplain 
talked very intelligently about the Irish problem. The 
politician said, ' Do you tell all this to the Archbishop.'' * 
' Not I,' said the chaplain. * Why not.'' — what would 
he say.'' ' * He would probably say, " Go to Helll " ' 
The politician, rather shocked, said to Healy, * You 
know the Archbishop — is he the sort of man to say 
that.'' ' ' No,' said Healy, * not at all. I have known 
him thirt)' years, and drunk or sober I never heard him 
say such a thing !' 

" We promised to meet again at the Athenaeum. Ker 
is a dry vintage, but undeniably refreshing, though I 
fear his acumen. . . . 

" Then I went off with Huxley for a word. The 
statue of Florence Nightingale has been enclosed 
in a structure of laurel, and a flat cake of yellow 
flowers put behind her head — meant for a halo, 
but looking like an odd umbrageous hat. The 
attempts of the English to honour people are very 
infantile. . . . 

" To the Royal Institution — much crowded. Found 
Sir James Dewar, who was pleased at the full audience. 
Hung about disconsolately. Phil Burne-Jones arrived, 
very pleasant and amusing. ... A tiresome military 
man came up, who asked questions, didn't listen to 
answers, and went on saying ' yers, yers,' long after one 
had finished. . . . Then I was led in. Quite full — 
and I discoursed for an hour on Vulgarity to a very 
attentive audience. . , . 

" Dewar carried me off to see his great soap-bubbles 
blown in glasses in a great vague laborator}'. I was 

T 289 



19 16] THE DIARY OF 

much bored by long explanations of these toys. The 
scientific mind seems to me curiously childish; it was 
like a child explaining its games. I am not interested 
in scientific processes, only in results. . . . Caught 
the 9.45, and back late." 

" Tremans, Septe?nber 15.— We went ofF to lunch with 
Lord Bryce : found him in an incredible old suit of grey 
clothes with a large pattern. He was most delightful 
and full of talk. . . . Geoffrey related some of his 
Mesopotamia experiences. Lord Bryce got up, stood 
in front of him, heard him open-mouthed like a child — 
a fine contrast, the old worn gentle ill-dressed hair- 
tufted man and the slim young soldier. We sate in the 
library. It is a comfort to feel Lord Bryce to be neither 
ambassador nor statesman, but an honest don like 
myself. He walked with us through the garden and 
down into the forest, to set us on our way: parted 
most affectionately. . . ." 

''February 19,19 17. — Went to Trinity Lodge to decide 
the Chancellor's English Medal. The Master received 
us, in gown and cassock: such a really beautiful 
sight, his gracious smile, his fatherly look at me, his 
white hair. He looked well and serene, but he was 
much troubled by breathlessness. * I puff and blow in 
so singular a manner! ' he said. The butler gave him 
coffee, pouring it into a saucer. We sate down, the 
Vice-Chancellor in a very odd old armchair, which 
turned out to be Porson's own chair : Henry Jackson on 
his left, deaf, red-fiiced, rugged, voice very shrill. . . . 
The great portraits round the room glimmered richly — 
Thompson, Wordsworth, Whewell — and I seemed to 
see gods ascending out of the earth. The Master (who 
was not on our Board) sate apart at a table and waited. 
He closed his eyes, he seemed to be slowly consuming 
some species of lozenge; his face was brightly lit up, and 
I thought I had never seen so lovely a picture of patient 
age and dignified courtesy. Sometimes he shook his 
head or smiled to himself, and sometimes his lips moved 

290 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1917 

and I thought he was praying. It was entirely beautiful; 
and I do not know why, but it came strongly into my 
head that I should never see him again; he was at the 
end of his course, and living in happy memory and 
certain hope." 

" June 13. — Up to town for Holt Governors' meeting: 
fierce heat: train held up at the edge of London in the 
marshes, by the river Lea, and a man came along and 
told us that Liverpool Street station had just been bombed. 
We crawled in very late. The station roof much dam- 
aged : an immense crowd, pale, silent, not in any panic, 
but interested. The bombed platform was guarded, 
and ambulances went in and out. I saw a shrouded 
figure carried out: the officials grave and absorbed. I 
was unpleasantly aware of a strong current of imagination 
and feeling about, which affected my mind unpleasantly: 
I mean that I felt deprived of my independence, and 
strangely merged in a tide of emotion. I have never 
felt it before; but I was conscious that if an impulse had 
seized the crowd it would have seized me too, and I 
should have rushed with it and acted with it. . . . 
I was taken in tow by a very friendly official, who tried 
to get me a taxi and extracted a tipsy driver from a pub, 
who said, * No, I can't take you — it's too dangerous, 
and I feel out of my mind. I live near Liverpool Street 
station and I don't know what may have happened; I 
must get back home.' But he returned to [the pub. 
My official was vexed and said, * That's not how to be- 
have — it isn't a time to drink.* ... It was awfully 
hot: crowds in streets, much broken glass everywhere: 
many streets guarded by police and special constables — 
in one place a group round a fallen man. The crowds 
were great — not eager or excited, but determined to 
see. A balloon went over, and it was strange how the 
street suddenly seemed to whiten^ all faces being turned 
to the sky. . . . The whole affair was very strange, 
and the sense of obsession — not coming from any idea of 
danger,'^though[the raiders[might have returned, butTrom 
the tense emotions of the^crowd — was a strain. ..." 

291 



1917] THE DIARY OF 

*' June 23. — Ainger gently said that I must come 
again because he was becoming a very old man — ^yet 
he wears the best of all. I feel very tired; I seem to 
have had a wild sort of waltz or cotillon through 
Eton; but it's a happy place — it seems to me happier 
than I remember it. . . . I feel as if I had been 
much welcomed and much blest — and that's surely 
enough. . . . 

" Then to Nicholson. He painted a little* and took 
me to lunch at the Savile. . . . Then to an exhibition 
in Bond Street and saw Nicholson's [portrait of] Smuts, 
together with many other pictures — odd and pleasant, 
ugly and strange, bright and dull. A very odd 
one by Sims — three girls in white supporting an 
evidently intoxicated elderly lady in black; they are 
in a meadow laid with green linoleum; from a 
bush hard by projects a stiff human image, as if 
carved in camphor — and the whole is called ' Remem- 
brance ' . . . 

" The fashion now is for bright pictures. I 
begged Nicholson to explain things to me, but 
he laughed mockingly. ' What are we to do with 
these. f^ ' I said, in a room of pictures with colours 
like strong stenches. 'Well, not look at them! ' says 
Nicholson. . . . 

" We went back, and Nicholson painted. He said 
many interesting things about the problems of real 
painters: the reduction of accessories to a minimum — 
the constant simplification of all redundance — the con- 
centration on the real subject — the choice of subject: a 
picture isn't a real thing — it's an illusion, a grouped 
thing — it's as definite a thing as a violet or a rose. . . . 
These things are not intelligible to me, but I have 
the agreeable sense of being in the presence of a 
mystery. ..." 

And now came the first warning of a blow which 
he had clearly foreseen as a possibility — a renewed 

* This portrait was not finished. In 1924 Mr. W. Nicholson painted the portrait 
of A. C. B., now in the Fitzwilliam Museum (see Diary, May 21, 1924). 

259, 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [19 17 

attack of the neurasthenia from which he had been 
entirely free for seven years and more. He tried to 
hope that the cloud of depression would pass, but it 
was soon clear that the trouble was serious; it was, in 
fact, the beginning of an illness that was to prove far 
more acute, more baffling and more obstinate than 
the last. 

'* Tremans, Ju/y 2. — A most disagreeable experience. 
I awoke before five o'clock, after dreams of incredible 
vividness, variety and rapidity, in much agitation and 
depression. An attack, sudden and unexpected, of my 
old friend, I fear. However, I went off to sleep again; 
but the same hideous pressure of visions, not in them- 
selves painful or agitating, but succeeding each other 
with such feverish rapidity and all so entirely pointless. 
Thus I made my way, it seemed, for hours, against an 
immense but quite good-natured crowd of boy-scouts 
and undergraduates in a street of a town, just slipping 
along as I could, the crowd streaming past. An infinite 
series of similar quite meaningless adventures, as though 
the imaginative part of the brain had lost its escapement 
and were whizzing away like a watch without a regulator. 
I woke again about 8.0 with that unpleasant sense of 
nausea in the mind, which was so characteristic of my 
melancholy illness. I got a little better and was just 
nervous and depressed — able to read with attention and 
even with interest, but with darkness hovering on the 
outskirt of the mind. . . . 

*' I have had no warning of this, except that I have 
been a little dull and sad. . . . What I have done is 
to overwork a good deal of late, and I must try to lie 
fallow a bit, with mild employment. I'm unfortunately 
very bad at resting. ..." 

" M^gdalene^ July 8 — We walked to Girton, rain 
dripping; and then I returned, played organ, had 
tea — with a storm brewing inside. However, when I 
sate down with a life of Charles Kingsley at 4.45 I only 
had three quarters of an hour of misery, and not of the 

293 



191 7] THE DIARY OF 

worst kind; and it cleared off, leaving me capable of 
thinking and writing. It is a very physical thing; one's 
mouth gets dry, and the wheels of thought fly round; 
an awful hurry seizes on one. One turns pages, can't 
read, and then the agonised stupor comes on — a real 
neuralgia, no doubt, only so much more mysterious 
because no active pain. No wonder it seems like an 
evil spirit — but an evil spirit would not pay a regular 
call after tea every day! I have really had a very fair 
day. Of course I may be going slowly down into 
darkness — the leisureliness of the process is fearful — 
but I don't jeel like that. . . . .- j 

** As I sit the cool air from the window and the 
twittering of birds is mildly pleasant. But I mustn't 
boast; though I should indeed sing unto the Lord a new 
song, as well as mend my ways, if I found myself able 
to keep my head above water as well as I have on the 
whole to-day. I certainly don't look unwell. 

" The variations of this vile malady are amazing. I 
dined alone, talked with Hunting, then read the life of 
Jowett with much peaceful enjoyment. To bed. Woke 
at 2.0 after vivid dreams, and could not sleep: the brain 
preternaturally active. I made up tunes, poetry, prose, 
the thoughts diving and darting about, really hardly 
under control: very painful in a way, but I wasn't at all 
depressed. But as I got sleepier, at each dip into sleep 
a thousand curious images darted into my mind: one 
only I will describe — a large green bottle, hanging in 
space by a series of linked chains — no meaning what- 
ever. There was no terror or agitation about these. 
Suddenly without any warning an awful access of horror 
and despair, so that I wondered if my end was 
come. I got up, lit the lights, and almost instantly felt 
that I was all right again — as if something had 
repelled the invasion and, so to speak, sealed the 
sepulchre. ..." 

''August 1 8. — What it means to sit here, the soft 
wind rustling, butterflies poising on the buddleia, apples 
dangling, the garden I love beyond, the life I love 

294 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1917 

all about, and have this horror over me, can't be even 
faintly guessed. Yet a man may live so for years, 
and I seem built for long life. It separates one from 
ever}'thing and everybody. Affection fades before it; 
its only life is to say, ' I should love this and do that, 
it the pain were away.' " 



295 



XIV 



1918-1925 



More than five years were to be endured before happi- 
ness returned to him — five years that shall here be 
rapidly passed over. This visitation of his illness was 
of the same character as the last; but he was now an 
older man, he had used his health and strength more 
recklessly than ever in his incessant labours, and the 
despair into which he was plunged was proportion- 
ately deeper. Shortly after writing the words last 
quoted he left Cambridge, on the advice of Dr. Ross 
Todd, for a nursing-home near Ascot, where he 
remained for the greater part of the next two years; 
and it was not until the spring of 1920 that he could 
be persuaded to face the return to Magdalene. Even 
then, though he was physically well and strong, his 
agitation of mind was still so great that he could only 
bring himself by very slow degrees to resume a por- 
tion of his work. Little by little he made his way 
back toward normal life, perpetually urged and 
encouraged by his doctors and his friends. Every 
step was taken with grievous effort; and after each 
had been accomplished he was able to acknowledge 
that it was a step forward, but the next that lay ahead 
seemed never any easier, and he was always convinced 
that utter disaster was not far off. During most of 
this time the diary was laid aside; there was nothing 
to be said of the passage of the days save that all alike 
were misery. No one about him, watching his perse- 
verance, could doubt that his mind and will would at 

296 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [191 8 

last bring him through to recovery; but the years 
were very long, disappointments were many, and 
almost to the end the darkness of his distress seemed 
unrelieved. Then, as before, like the rolling up of 
a curtain, it suddenly and completely disappeared; all 
his old ease of work and enjoyment came back to him 
with a rush, and he was himself again. This was at 
the beginning of 1923. 

Meanwhile, in the early days of his illness, he had 
suffered the greatest loss of his lifetime. His mother 
had died in 19 18, at Tremans, bequeathing to the 
multitude of her friends a memory uniquely treasured. 
Whoever knew Mrs. Benson has known goodness 
that was all gaiet)', wisdom that was all charity, brilli- 
ance that was all large-hearted humanity; her virtues 
had the lightness and brightness of charming talents, 
her talents had the grace of virtues. Her last years 
had brought her many sorrows and anxieties, but her 
spirit to the end was quick with youth, and her friends 
mourned for her and missed her, not as one dying in 
the fulness of age, but as one whom old age could 
never touch. Of her six children only two survived 
her — with a third. Miss Tucy Tait, who since the 
old Lambeth days had lived with her and been as 
daughter and sister in the family. And so they now 
said good-bye to Tremans; and to Arthur, in the 
worst of his unhappiness, the loss of his mother and 
his home might well seem to cut him off from the last 
hope of recovery. When he returned to Magdalene 
and began to take some part in the life there and to 
see his friends, the gap was even more to be felt; 
without Tremans, and all that Tremans had meant, 
the course of the year was difficult indeed. The 
house of his cousins at Ambleside was still the resource 
it had been for so long; but he needed some place of 
his own away from Cambridge, and with his brother's 
help he most fortunately found it. Mr. E. F. Benson 
had a tenancy (for part of each year) of Lamb House, 
at Rye — Henry James's home for the last twenty 
years of his life, and still in the possession of his 

297 



1918-23] THE DIARY OF 

nephew. An arrangement was made by which 
Arthur, sharing his brother's tenancy, had the use of 
the house for the vacations; and this solved his diffi- 
culty so well that the familiar country inns, Burford 
and Broadway and the rest, knew him no more. His 
busy holidays — very busy they at once became again, 
as soon as he was well — were passed henceforward at 
Lamb House, where a succession of friends were 
invited to stay with him, one by one, till it was time 
to go back to Cambridge for the scarcely busier 
term. 

In the supreme relief of discovering that he could 
once more enjoy the world he made light of the 
physical disabilities by which, for the first time in his 
life, he was now considerably hampered. Gout at- 
tacked him, his habit of exercise was much interrupted; 
he scorned to practise a careful regimen and treated 
his growing bulk as nothing but a jest. His lecturing, 
his preaching, his *' Fishmonger days " in London — 
in none of which he would abate a jot of his old energy 
— undoubtedly cost him perilous exertion; but for 
sixty years he had had too much bodily health to 
believe that it could seriously fail him. The master- 
ship of his college brought its full measure of work, 
and more, in the immense re-invigoration of the 
university after the war. Moreover his turn for the 
Vice-Chancellorship would come before long; and 
even this prospect did not deter him from accepting 
the office of " Renter Warden " of the Fishmongers* 
Company in 1924, entailing yet higher and more 
onerous dignity to follow. It was impossible for him 
to economise his force, so great was his pleasure in 
lavishing it. His last two years of life were perhaps 
his happiest; his position pleased him, he loved the 
daylong rush of work and sociability in which he 
lived, and there was never the smallest cloud of the 
old depression upon his mind. 

The first sign of returning hope had been to find 
that he could write. He began to amuse himself by 
translating epigrams from the Greek Anthology, and 

298 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1923 

he published his versions in 1923 under the name of 
The Reed of Ptjtt. And then, as with the release 
of a long-pent stream, book after book poured from 
him, f\ir outstripping any possible rate of publication. 
Two volumes of reminiscence came first, The Trefoil^ 
and Memories and Friends^ each the work of a very few 
weeks; and after these he turned to fiction again, and 
wrote (still in 1923) Chris Gascoyne and The House of 
Menerdue — the latter inspired by a visit he paid that 
summer to the haunts or his youth in Cornwall. In 
1924 he was still writing novels {The Canon has been 
published since his death). Finally, in 1925, he began 
a book which ever since his recovery he had promised 
himself to write, a Memoir of his mother; he finished 
it at Cambridge in the summer term. Since the 
beginning of his career he had published about fifty 
books, and I cannot say how many more he had 
written. This was the last; and he laid it, after an 
interval of a quarter of a century, beside the book in 
which he had first shown his full measure as a writer 
of prose, the Life of his father. 

''Magdalene, April 2^, 1923. — I enter my sixty-second 
year in good spirits, not remorseful, interested in life and 
work. Thank God! I had a pile of letters, mostly 
from kind but relentless women. ... At ii.o Peel 
came, and we walked round, looking at small details — 
the old pleasure returns. At i.o College Lunch: 
many small points. Walked with F.R.S., who was 
enchantingly nice — his very best. . . . Wrote. Hall, 
very friendly. Committee about Reading Room, Ram- 
sey, Peel, Morshead, in my study. ... I offered 
^^1,500; this is a small thank-offering to my dear and 
kind colleagues. I drew up a report." 

" April 26. — Wrote about Rupert Brooke. Dined 
in Trinity with Lapsley. He ushered me in as the 
cook brings in the Boar's Head at [Queen's], Oxford — 
* caput apri defero ' ; very warm greetings from Bevan, 
Innes, McTaggart, etc., which warmed my heart. . . . 

299 



1923] THE DIARY OF 

To Lapsley's great panelled rooms (Henry Jackson's), 
very bare and noble. A conceited American boy, and 
the charming de Navarro, son of Mary Anderson, quite 
delightful. 

" I was grateful to Lapsley for restoring me to the 
world. I didn't like the clothless tables, but the dinner 
was good and the welcome adorable." 

''May 13. — Awoke cheerful; breakfast with Sarum.* 
... It was strange to be sitting again with him, 
after all our years of companionship, and to find him so 
much the same. ... At 10.45 ^ ^^^^ ^^"^ ^" Con- 
vocation robes to the Library. We went into chapel, 
leaving him in the Library. I gave the boys a sketch 
of his career. Then he came in with verger, stood 
by my stall, and I admitted him by formula. It was 
nice to do this to an old friend. Then service, and the 
boys sang finely. He preached an admirable short 
sermon. ..." 

''May 14. — I think St. Clair is a very fine, simple- 
minded, robust, sensible prelate, and the little veil, 
pulled down by his long absence in Australia, has flown 
up again. We seemed like two Eton boys again. He 
walked in the garden with me, and went off at 11 .0, 
after a wholly joyful visit. 

" I had many letters, but callers flowed in. Addis 
to lunch, a fresh and lively youth. Walked alone; 
met the dull smiling inattentive Larmor; called on 
Winstanley; saw but could not catch E. M. Forster, 
the novelist; met Winstanley again and went to the 
bowling-green — what a sweet place, but for tea-swilling 
dons. Then to Library Subsyndicate at Emmanuel. 
Crawley, a very nice boy, at dinner — and Mallory, who 
came back to talk. . . . He is absorbed in the 
League of Nations, and believes too much in his power 
of inspiring second-rate people by somewhat incoherent 
thought. But he is a bright and gallant figure, and has 
much personality. 

* Dr. St. Clair Donaldson, Bishop of Salisbury and Hon. Fellow of Magdalene. 
300 




A. L 15l.\su.\ 
'923 



[To face p. 300 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1923 

" I slept very ill, ami 1 am full of bodily disablements, 
but filled with levity and interest. I bless God hourly 
for my release." 

** May 21. — I strolled out, doddered about, watched 
the crowd of trippers everywhere trailing wearily 
round, was pleased and amused by everything. Called 
on Winstanley in New Court and interrupted him with 
discursive talk; I couldn't hold my tongue; he came out 
with me to see me safely off the premises. We excused 
ourselves by pleading fictitious appointments; and 
sneaking back again — I couldn't go home, feeling too 
idle — I met him sallying out again. So we walked to 
the roundabout, which was looking beautiful, with sad 
dons and girls at tea. The fountain quite superb, the 
water tinkling: Laurence hobbling hurriedly in the 
offing. I went back, and began an idle book of letters, 
displacing St. Mark. ..." 

" June 5. — Went off to town and to Fishmongers' 
Hall: came in at a Holt Finance Committee, and was 
made very welcome. . . . Brand more youthful than 
ever: Eccles, the Headmaster, very portly and resonant. 
I conducted much of the business. Then came lunch, 
and a lot of old Fishmonger friends turned up. I was 
really moved almost to tears by their delightful greet- 
ings — felt I had been really missed. . . . Lord 
Hollenden came and made me a most gracious speech — 
and so it went on. Then whom should I find next 
me but the Bishop of Norwich — and he looks younger. 
We had much talk, and I got my own way all along. 
... A memorable day." 

" Magdalene, Oct. 14. — I went off to the [University] 
Sermon; my last attendance was in 1883, when Papa 
preached. We met in the Senate House, and my 
brother Heads were very gracious; St. John's made 
tender inquiries — he is a funny sight, with his 
sanguine laughter-loving face and his white thatch of 
hair. . . . 

30t 



1923] THE DIARY OF 

" We sloped off, a poor congregation. Mason* began 
weakly, but there was a fine apostrophe to the Church, 
in the style of Newman — ' Wherefore, my mother, do 
they prepare for thee a bill of divorcement, that thou 
art not worthy to be the Bride of Christ? ' I looked 
round. A.'s head was embedded in his chest; B. asleep 
with a look of uplifted piety, C.'s skull-like head dangling 
on his thin neck, one of the Bedells asleep, his head 
pillowed on the other's shoulder. I was aroused by a 
sharp sound to my left : D., rigid with sleep, snored and 
struggled. E. below, with gleaming eyes, making 
mental notes. A disgraceful scene of infinite futility 
and grotesqueness. We scuffled away. . . . 

" Aunt Nora came to tea and I had a long quiet 
talk with her, much about psychical things. . . . 
She looked very frail and wise, unhampered by the 
flesh. . . . 

" I forgot to say that chapel [Magdalene] was abso- 
lutely full from end to end, all the stalls and many extra 
chairs. The music was good, but without courage. 
I was very much pleased by this, and it was a really 
inspiring sight. I preached on friendliness — was 
decidedly affected myself, and they listened most 
silently. My voice improved as I went on, and I had no 
nervousness to speak of." 

''February 2, 1924 — I walked about town, to the 
Fitzwilliam, Christ's Piece, back by Jesus: very heavy 
and extremely lame. Then wrote letters with disgust, 
and went to dine at Trinity. . . . 

" I saw a plain pale little man by the Master, whose 
face seemed familiar — a lifted eyebrow, a little smile, a 
perky curl of the lip. I said to Parry, * Can that be the 
ex-Prime Minister? * ' Yes,' said Parry, * it is Baldwin; 
I found him strolling about and asked him to dinner. 
He is struggling with a hideous task, his list of honours.' 
Then came grace, very sweetly sung; the Master had 
said the initial grace in tones like a cataract of tin pots 
and crockery. Then Parry suddenly said, * Let us 

* Canon A, J. Mason, of Canterbury. 
302 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1924 

change places.' So I was moved up next the Master, 
and Baldwin took my hand in a firm grip: ' I have long 
wished to meet you, as Phil's friend,' . . . Then he 
said, in reply to some question of mine, ' Yes, I hope 
I shall get back to ordinary life again. I used to like 
reading; but this infernal task of mine — fourteen hours 
a day seeing people and having to be at your best and 
guarding every word — is a fearful strain.' I said some- 
thing about ' semina flammae,' and he said, * Yes, every 
smallest word is liable to burst into flame.' . . . He 
struck me as a very good-natured, sensible, able, tired 
man, but with plenty of stuff left in him, entirely 
unembittered and healthily detached. . . . 

" It is so surprising to me to find myself in this situa- 
tion of respect. I seem to myself so obscure and 
secluded; and then suddenly I find myself in touch and 
on easy terms with these big men. It is an experience 
that continually takes me by surprise. I feel radically 
obscure, in spite of my bedizened exterior." 

''February 21. — Rylands to dine. A very quiet 
friendly evening. I was perhaps a little blurred. 
He was angelic and full of cheerful details. He can't, 
however, like my company as much as he seems to. 
Perhaps he is deferential.? I felt both ugly and elephan- 
tine, with a great desire to applaud his grace, comeliness 
and sweet temper. . . . Anyhow it was a very delight- 
ful evening. He went at 12.0, leaping into the night. 
I went to bed, having caught, I think, a fresh cold, and 
with furious bouts of coughing, awaited the throned 
dawn of the Pepys dinner.* When I think of the 
agonies of terror and miser)^ I suffered over this two 
years ago, and the horrors of 1921 and 1922, it is 
amazing. ..." 

" February 22. — . . . We dressed, and resplendent 
in red gowns and orders went off, Gosse saying that he 
felt very ill and miserable. Our company assembled: 
Lord Exeter, very nimble and kindly, a simple man: 

• The annual dinner at Magdalene on the birthday of Samuel Pepys. 



1924] THE DIARY OF 

Lord Braybrooke, as kind and unreachable as ever: 
W. Bridgeman, very stout and lethargic and pale-eyed, 
full of friendliness: Owen Hugh-Smith, in chain 
and jewel of Fishmongers . . . and various other 
notabilities, all known to me. 

" I led off with Gosse and we took our places. The 
hall looked very well, rich but homely. We fell to 
work: Alington next me, very amusing and volatile. . . . 
Food and wine good and well served: no hitch: beha- 
viour of our undergraduates pleasantly commented on. 
I said grace, gave ' The King,' and then called on Gosse. 
He spoke clearly and loudly, with easy flow of words 
and good gestures : said too much about me, as a wonder- 
ful person, to be guarded from overwork by gossamer 
nets. Then an interesting bit of literary talk about the 
rise of self-expression, and the friendship of Evelyn and 
Pepys — no sign of their knowing each that the other 
was a diarist. He spoke twenty-three minutes. Then 
an interval for coffee. Then I rose and felt very much 
at home; Gosse had started them laughing, and I had 
a lot of almost new and quite funny stories, at which 
they laughed heartily and hilariously. Then Alington 
went on, a clever and amusing but disconnected 
speech. . . . 

" I stayed talking in the Library till 12.0. The 
worst of having made an amusing speech with stories 
is that the dull men of the company come to one in 
order to tell one much better stories. ... I got away 
at midnight: sate reading till 1.30, and had a night 
much broken by agonising fits of coughing, but 
thankful for a really successful gathering." 

** March 10. — G. Rylands arrived, looking very 
young, blooming and serene in spite of his efforts. 
He is acting the Duchess in the Duchess of Malfi, We 
were gay at lunch, but I was rather dazed by the long 
morning. Then R. and I went off by taxi to Milton: 
a cold day, with some snow still lying, but a lovely sun, 
and the fields about Horningsea and the clear river 
very beautiful : saw many gulls, hawk, wild-duck, etc. 

304 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1924 

. . . We talked of innumerable things, and came 
down to Clayhithe. . . . We drove back and he came 
to tea, but was tired and silent, liking to be with me, 
not wanting to go and act. But he went ofF. I wrote 
a little. 

'* Winstanley and Ogilv)' to dinner, the latter hand- 
some, but positive and rather bored. Winstanley 
sparkled. To the A.D.C., where I never feel at ease. 
The play began with faint and sad music by Ferrabosco, 
very sweet and pathetic. W. said it was the sort of 
music he would like before his lectures — resignation to 
a bad job. 

" The play was, I thought, detestable. It was well 
staged, the actors well drilled. But the dresses were 
fantastic, and there was an air of pedantry — and still 
worse, a sense of deep unreality. A play where again 
and again in a tragic moment a man finds time and 
heart to spout similes and platitudes! Soon the 
Duchess appeared, very pale, moving with dignity — 
but I didn't like the painted eyes and the very stiff 
carriage of the head. Yet when the Duchess was there, 
there was always a sense of reality. The young husband 
Antonio was a handsome boy, and the Cardinal was 
natural; but the lunatic scene was grotesque — and then 
the murders began. To see Rylands strangled on the 
stage and put kicking and mewing in a great black 
coffin was grotesque. Then Wormald, very limp and 
faint, was strangled, expostulating, and the audience 
laughed. Then four people were stabbed. The whole 
thing was sickening, and not redeemed by any art or 
beauty — the very motive of all this crime obscure. I 
could hardly believe that this sad stately woman was the 
young man who had been walking with me in the fields 
all the afternoon. I got tired and even bored when the 
Duchess was dead. Ogilvy excused h'mself, and I 
came back out of tune with everything. But it was a 
delightful day." 

" May 14. — I bicycled alone to Haslingfield and 
Harlton, and enjoyed it greatly. Then with V. Jones 



1924] THE DIARY OF 

to King's, to dine. This was delightful. We were 
received with great kindness. . . . Walter Durnford 
came to entertain us. We walked in — it was so 
strange to be there again — and I felt how the romance 
of my life is centred at King's. Every one was pleasant 
— Clapham, Wedd, Sheppard, etc. . . . Then we 
went to Combination Room. Dickinson came to sit 
next me and we gossiped away. Afterwards Mann 
came up, half laughing, half crying, took my arm and 
walked to the gate. He said, ' It was so nice to see you 
here. I look up the table and I see Walter Durnford 
sitting there, and I say to myself ' There is a great 
gentleman ' — we are all of us well enough in our way, 
but we are not that — and then I see you beside him and 
my heart is full.' 

" What ^ fool one is! I had thought I was regarded 
with hostility at King's, and instead I am the welcome 
guest. I abandoned myself to pleasant reveries." 

" May 21. — Nicholson came all the morning — but at 
ten to i.o he suddenly said, 'It is finished.' The 
portrait was thus done in three days, after four previous 
attempts. I asked him what the difficulty was and he said 
he did not know. He showed it me. It is a small picture 
(N. said * This is miniature painting.') I am sitting in 
silk gown in a red armchair. I am a stout bilious man, 
with a heavy jowl and red-rimmed eyes — with the look 
as if I held a potato in my mouth : rather fine hands, with 
pointed fingers (my own being spatulate). It is 
beautifully painted, but all the coarse and bored elements 
have come to the surface. That is what happens when 
one sits.* . . ." 

" May 22. — G.R. at 2.30, very youthful and gay. 
He professes to be alarmed by Tripos. We ran into 
floods between Fen Stanton and St. Ives and he was 
childishly excited; but we put out the magneto and 
had to get out while it was mended. Went and in- 
spected the floods, the result of a ' cloud-burst ' on 

* The portrait is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. 
306 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1924 

upper ground. Then on to Hemingford Grey: to the 
church, saw the Gunning grave, the river by the church- 
yard wall running brown and hoarse. Then through 
Dendy Sadler's garden, now all grown up: on to Heming- 
ford Abbots, and back by road. My dear boy was 
quite delightful, full of affection, argument, petulance, 
reason, fine feeling and whimsicality. I spoke to him 
with much freedom about many things. But I feel that 
he is drifting away. He will go to town and get inter- 
ested in other people, perhaps second-rate people. And 
our understanding will all fade away. But I Jiope 
it may be otherwise. It is strange to care for any 
one so much and yet to accept these possibilities 
with equanimity. I suppose one learns to expect 
less." 

''June 9. — My foot very bad. I got up, however, in 
good time and limped about. At 12.30 I went to the 
college photograph, and this I really enjoyed. The 
boys looked and were so friendly and fresh and gay. 
I had many scraps of talk with them, and sate finally 
enthroned between Hunter and Holt. . . . Then 
drove alone by Wimpole — the avenue very grand — and 
up the North Road, where by the station I found a little 
tree-surrounded site, which I once thought of buying, 
for sale. Indulged in pleasant reveries. 

" Came back and went to Emmanuel, having been 
summoned for a meeting, but found the house full of 
bright cohorts of ladies ascending and descending. 
Asked an austere maid where the meeting was. ' There 
is no meeting that I know of.' Where was the Master.? 
He was out — Mrs. Giles was giving a party. I was 
very lame, but contrived to get a taxi. Wrote a 
little at the letter I intend to send round to the 
undergraduates. . . . 

" Desmond MacCarthy came in, and I had nearly 
three hours of really interesting and flexible talk, an 
actual interchange and comparison of thought. He has 
a well-stored and sympathetic mind, and (what is more 
important in talk) does not store up his leavings, but 



1924] THE DIARY OF 

gaily follows any attractive by-path. How rarely one 
gets talk like that here — or indeed anywhere." 

*' Lamb House, Rye, June 26. — Another very hot 
golden day: letters leisurely: then to Appledore. By 
Kenardington to Warehorne: a fine church with a great 
eighteenth century red-brick tower full of white snap- 
dragons: high pews, royal arms, no Anglo-Catholic 
nonsense. Barham of the Ingoldsby Legends was 
vicar here. To Ruckinge, a beautiful old church with 
huge Norman tower on the edge of the marsh. . . . 
Then down to the marsh. The same odd depression 
of the fens overtakes me there. Newchurch, a big Tudor 
place, leaning tower, restored out of all interest — to 
Ivychurch, a very grand orange-lichened place: no 
village, about a hundred parishioners. To Brookland 
with its odd black pagoda, and so home. The sight of 
the marsh dotted with white sheep as far as eye could see 
was very rich. A great sea-fog with wind-tost crest over 
the sea, rather sinister; and as I sit writing I hear the 
Dungeness fog-horn blowing. They are sheep-shearing 
everywhere, a pleasant sight. These beautiful remote 
villages are very attractive. My foot is very tender, and 
it is as much as I can do to potter into a church. But 
I'm well and cheerful and enjoy solitude." 

** J^h 1' — To the literary Society. . . . John 
Bailey very nice: I clasped arms with Newbolt. A small 
gathering, and the two chairs to my right empty. During 
soup a tall figure glided behind me and Arthur Balfour 
sate down. He is lovely to look at: looks about 60, 
curly, silken, white hair, but so easy and lithe: a little 
deaf, but full of the old charm. We talked of many 
things, politicians, books, people. . . . He took down 
some names of books and said engagingly, ' I can't bear 
books that haven't a happy ending.' I don't think his 
talk was brilliant, but it was charming and very modest. 
He didn't recognise me at first, but soon picked it up. 
He has a pleasant deference and attentiveness — a really 
aristocratic manner, no claims, no assertiveness. He 

308 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1924 

looked very fresh, ate and drank little. . . . Then 
suddenly his vis-a-viSy Bailey, Rennell Rodd, etc., closed 
in on him like a pack of hungry dogs. . , . 

" I fled at 9.50: much bored in train: bed at 2.0." 

** Magdalene^ October 25. — At 7.0 dined with O.F.M. 
here, and off to Corn Exchange — full from end to end. 
Seats found near platform. Very orderly. The proces- 
sion appeared: Frank smiling, shaking hands, quite a 
little candidate. Keynes (pale as marble) began, an 
excellent dry speech, not very effective. Then Frank, 
a good sensible speech, neither petty nor cheap, indicating 
liberal principles. . . . Then Cope Morgan, a loud 
fighting speech; really 1 almost expected to see tonsils 
and lungs blown from his mouth by his yells; it was too 
long, and he lost hold, but he had a big reception. Then 
Mrs. Salter, a charming fluted little speech. . . . 

*' The whole thing filled me with horror. The 
audience could not understand the simplest point and 
laughed only at the vulgarest jokes. The idea of being 
governed by such a democracy is outrageous. I agreed 
with Coventry Patmore that the Anglo-Saxon in intelli- 
gence is only just above the negro. They were orderly 
and good-humoured, but it was a low affair — the asper- 
sions on fellow candidates sickening. The room was 
hideous, and the constant singing of * For he's a jolly, 
etc.,' was loathsome. I trust I shall never attend a 
political meeting again. The low mental quality was 
heart-rending." 

'-''Lamb House^ Rye^ December 31. — We drove out 
in a cold wind, with flying rain-storms, to Tenter- 
den. Walked, I very slowly, by footpath to Small 
Hythe. Ellen Terry's cottage is lovely. A great glow- 
ing sunset came out, over the flooded valley. In two or 
three places we drove through water. On the great wet 
level at Wittersham the waves were running quite high 
and breaking on the shore. . . . 

*' So ends a very happy and busy year. I have had a 
good many ailments, mostly gouty and caused by my 

309 



1924] THE DIARY OF 

weight (now 19 stone), but none of them in the least 
disabling to the mind. I don't think I have had a single 
hour of depression. I have been very happy about the 
college, my colleagues jnost friendly and conciliatory, the 
undergraduates extremely delightful and good. I have 
carried out some pleasant plans — have built parlour, 
bedmakers' and gyps' common-rooms, reading-rooms, 
panelled chapel-entry, two fives'-courts, all out of 

Madame de 's money. She and Edward de 

have been constantly and deeply affectionate and sympa- 
thetic, and my happiness has much depended upon them. 
Fred has been a great stand-by. My friendship with R. 
has rather evaporated owing to his inability to write 
letters, which freezes me. My breeze with P. blown 
over. I have published several books and written two 
complete novels. I have enjoyed the Fishmongers' work. 
My friendship with Gosse has revived. I have made 
many speeches and entertained endless undergraduates. 
Lamb House has been an unspeakably delightful 
haven of refuge. I take leave of 1924 grato animo." 

^' Magdalene^ Januaryl^^ \^1^. — Called at 6.45, an hour 
which has no existence for me; dressed in the dark and 
breakfasted 7.30. Started at 8.0, a misty morning, very 
little to see anywhere, no colour — a few strings of horses 
by Newmarket — but the great heaths, the pleasant halls 
and homesteads and the grey flint churches all gave the 
comfortable Norfolk atmosphere. . . . We got to 
Norwich and the Cathedral about 10.45. -^ "^^^ ^^ 
Dean, Willink, a handsome bustling man, who gave me 
an excellent scat just facing the Queen, who had a great 
chair and faldstool, with a chair on either hand, close to 
the altar-rails. The organ played a grand hilarious 
Handel piece; then the Corporation with maces came 
in, and the choir, very picturesque, boys in cassocks and 
ruffs*. . . . 

" The organ began again, and the procession entered 
from the south door. . . . The Bishop as cool as ever, 

* The service was for the dedication of the ancient episcopal throne of Norwich, 
newly restored. 

310 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1925 

with the Queen, who had an odd crimson plush hat, 
of her special shape, and a fur coat; a graceful young 
man and girl with her. . . . Then the Bishop, a 
short, dignified, rather beautiful but cold sermon, not 
well read. Then he went behind the altar and dedicated 
the throne, which is very high, under the eastern arch — 
rather papal and a little theatrical. A collection for 
St. Paul's (;fioo). 

Then the Bishop took the Queen down the nave, to 
show herself; and I, under instructions, went out of the 
north transept door, where I found a photographer. 
The Queen, the Bishop, and quite a bevy of pretty 
nymphs came out. The Bishop seated the Queen, and 
himself, arranged the nymphs, and added me to the 
group. 

" Then we all stalked in. I found the nymphs in 
the small upper drawing-room, on the third floor; and 
while I talked the Queen came in, in a brown mole- 
coloured dress, not very becoming, extended her hand 
to me and began to talk about the weather and the cere- 
mony. Then we trooped downstairs to the dining-room, 
and the Queen made a little gesture with a finger indicat- 
ing to me the chair next her. It was quite a small party, 
and very youthful. . . . The Bishop roped me in, 
and I talked to the Queen most of the time. . . . Shy 
she was, at first, but not in the least dull — very well 
informed about current topics and people and historical 
people, easily amused, and the somewhat severe lines of 
her face melting into great geniality. The Bishop of 
course is the most entirely tranquil and collected person 
on such occasions and put her at her ease. I liked her 
voice, and her quick direct replies. . . . 

*' When we rose to go the Bishop marshalled the party. 
Two of the charming houris were giggling together. 
He said sternly, ' Come and be useful — you were not 
asked here to amuse yourselves.' Finally I was sent in 
to the big drawing-room with two girls, ' to make a noise 
of talk at all events.' The room gradually filled with 
Corporation people and clergy, a civic reunion. They 
were led up to the Queen one by one, making all sorts of 

311 



1925] THE DIARY OF 

grotesque contortions. ... A foolish woman said to 
me, * How gracious she is — every inch a queen.' Now 
that was exactly what she was not. She had no majesty 
of mien, or ease or stateliness. She looked a hard-worked 
and rather tired woman, plainly dressed, doing her best 
to be civil to nervous people. It made me feel a sort of 
affectionate admiration. She was hustled off to speak 
to some nurses. 

*' The party drifted off, and then the Bishop carried 
me off to a little sitting-room, high up, where we talked. 
. . . He saw me off at the door with cordial and grate- 
ful words. We drove off through light mist and 
retraced our journey, getting in soon after 6.0. A most 
interesting day: which has reversed all my preconceived 
ideas about the Queen. I should like to meet her 
again, and I feel a curious kind of personal regard for her, 
and a warmth about the heart." 

" March 9. — Frank and Mrs. Salter arrived with 
Lord Oxford, very bluff and rosy, with a nice blunt 
friendly manner. We chattered about Oxford and 
Cambridge respectively. Then Margot, who did not 
recognise me, nor realise who I was, till I reminded her of 
Piz Languard. She is very witch-like, long face, long 
nose, wdth a hat with odd black puffs. Dinner in Com- 
bination Room, much champagne. . . . Then I was 
called to change places with Owen, who was next Margot. 
She had remembered, and we talked about our symptoms, 
with many nudges and hand-pattings from her. She 
certainly has a real charm, and I felt her, under all her 
trappings, to be genuinely affectionate. She had a 
little olive-wood cigarette-box, the counterpart of the one 
she gave me. 

" We drove to the Guildhall, and after a pause 
marched on to the platform: a pattern of faces like 
shagreen, . . . Asquith was ill dressed, long neat hair, 
pleased, I thought, at being an Earl. They went, and 
the crowd closed in, so I couldn't follow. Margot 
came up, clasped my hand and said, * Good-night, old 
jriendr , . . 

312 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1925 

" What strikes me about It all is the pitiable claim 
advanced by each speaker that the Liberals were the only 
serious rational inaugurators of progress and that all 
else are thieves and robbers. Do they really believe 
this stuff, especially when the countr)' evidently 
doesn't want them? It is the low mentality and the 
coarseness of emotion of a public meeting that sickens 
me. I feel degraded by being one of such a 
rabble." 

''March 16. — Hunting went off at lo.o, and I 
followed at ii.o. A good many undergraduates going 
down. A man travelled in my carriage like a very sleek 
little pig, all his features melted into an adipose paste. 
To Fishmongers' Hall and found a lecture on Oysters 
proceeding. . . . Then went with the Clerk to St. 
Magnus : found a man trying the organ which is splendid, 
and the church apt for rolling melody. . . . Then we 
went on to Billingsgate — strange passages to right 
opening on wharfs, and to a half-demolished house which 
I took to be Todgers's (Martin Chuzzlewit). The 
stench of Billingsgate, which was deserted and being 
swabbed out, was appalling — concentrated centuries of 
bitter briny fishiness. The market is from 4.30 a.m. 
to 9.0. We keep an inspector and office here, and I 
saw the ' condemned ' barge, officered by a merry 
pigeon-fancier, in which the condemned and refuse fish 
is taken away in iron tanks to be made into poultry food 
at Wapping. But the smell in the whole place made 
me feel almost faint, and remained with me all day. We 
then went and inspected Knill's Wharf, under the Hall: 
the great granite catacombs very fine, and the dark 
up-towering bridge, and the swirl of the flood-water 
round the prows of moored barges. . . . 

" Went to Cannon Street, found Noel Blakiston; we 
travelled in a Pullman and had tea. A quiet evening. 
I found him as delightful as ever. ... I only 
hope he won't knock his head against my critical 
sympathies. He looked after me on the journey most 
filially." 



1925] THE DIARY OF 

" Lamb House^ Rye, March 21. — Rose early; and Noel 
departed, taking much sunshine with 'him. Curzon's 
death announced — but there is something hollow about 
his career. His seclusion (never dined out), his pom- 
posity, his awful industry: it gives me a feeling like 
Gray's Elegy — the boast of heraldry, etc.: something 
deeply futile about it. Curious that he seems to have 
had so very few friends of his own order; they were all 
professional men. He was always friendly to me. . . . 
All the tributes to him are respectful apologies for not 
liking him better. . . . 

" Hugh Clutton-Brock came. I settled him in 
the garden-room, advised a stroll, worked till dinner. 
I find my Memoir pours out. This is mamma's 
birthday." 

" Magdalene, April 20. — A letter from Madame 
to say that she and E. had made over another 



[gift] to me. ... I can carry out all my schemes 
without anxiety. It is like a romance: and it fills my 
mind with affection for the dear donor, who has brought 
so much sunlight about my path of late and asks so 
little. Though I have not seen her, I feel about her 
as I did for mamma and Beth — an unsuspicious love. 
It is wonderful. ..." 

** Magdalene, April 24. — My sixty-third birthday. 
I awoke after half-sad dreams. I looked out over a 
hedge and saw mamma in a grey dress m.aking her way 
resolutely up the road ; went to meet her and was greeted 
by an embrace. Then Maggie came, pale and silent, 
but smiling; then Beth, who declared herself with a 
great smile to be perfectly happy. All this moved me 
much, but I did not think of them as dead, till I awoke, 
and soon after slept again. It was a curious birthday. 
I had hardly any letters, except one or two anonymous 
ones. I wrote fiercely. M. (with an ironical smile), 
G. (very breezy), and D. (gentle and mild) to lunch, 
and we had a most pleasant party. Then I went to the 
Senate House and saw some of our men take degrees — 

314 



ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON [1925 

always an interesting sight. Then the Press Syndicate, 
dull and lengthy, till 6.30: Sorley in the chair. Then 
more letters, and a pleasant little party in Hall, to which 
I sent some Beaufort champagne, and my health was 
drunk. Both Morshead and Salter sent me books, and 
a mass of flowers came. Not a bad birthday — about 
ten hours' work." 

** June 3. — College photograph. I liked my hand- 
some friendly well-mannered young men very much, 
and felt proud of them. Lunched with Clutton-Brock 
and met J. F. Holland: such an easy reasonable talk 
about many things. 

" Then out with Manning. . . . We found a chalk- 
pit above Harlton (I have been there with Marcus 
Dimsdale) with a little wood above it, and winding paths 
and tiny glades — such a little paradise. We wound 
through it and came out on the wold — the air full of 
golden sunlight, and a honied breeze, with scents of 
clover and beans; afar lay Cambridge, very hazy, with 
smoke going up; down below little quaint house-roofs 
and orchard-closes, full of buttercup and hemlock. A 
sweet hour. . . . " 

This was his last sight of the country that he knew 
so well. On the following day, Thursday, June 4, 
he was in LxDndon, returning to Magdalene in the 
evening. Next morning, feeling ill, he sent for his 
doctor, who found him to be suffering fromi pleurisy. 
His condition caused no alarm for several days, but 
on June 10 there came a sudden change for the worse. 
He had got up and was sitting in his study when he 
was seized by a severe heart-attack, prolonged for 
several hours. It was judged unsafe to move him 
from his armchair till the second day, but meanwhile 
he had been able to see one of his colleagues and to 
give some directions. On the I2th he was conveyed 
back to bed; but pneumonia soon developed, and it 
became known that he was very dangerously ill. He 
died at midnight on Tuesday, June 16. Three days 

315 



1925] ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON 

later the funeral service was held in the college chapel, 
and he was followed by many friends to his grave in 
St. Giles's cemetery. 

Magdalene will always remember him as one of 
the most devoted and generous of her benefactors, 
and all Cambridge will long miss the presence of so 
welcome and so rewarding a companion. His friends, 
far and wide, mourn the loss of a man who loved life, 
and who with unquenchable spirit enriched it for them 
all. The last word may be allowed to those who 
learned to know him when they were boys in his 
charge at school — who knew him infinitely kind, 
admirably wise, inspiringly great. On that word, 
in unforgetting gratitude, we say good-bye to him. 



THE END 



316 



INDEX 



Abbotsford, 85-7 

Ainger. A. C, 38, 44. 45. 49, 73, 

76, 92, 182. 183, 195, 221, 287, 

292 
Albany, H.R.H. Duchess of, 37, 250 
— , h;R.H. Duke of {see Saxe- 

Gsburg, Duke of) 
Alexander of Teck, Prince and 

Princess, 250 
Alington, C. A., 304 
Anderson (Dorset), iil 
Arnold, Thomas, 121 
— , Miss, 122 
Asquith, Rt.-Hon. H. H. (see 

Oxford and Asquith, Earl of) 
Austen-Leigh, Augustus, Provost 

of King's, 106 

Bailey, John, 308 

Baldwin, Rt.-Hon. Stanley, 302, 303 

Balfour, Rt.-Hon. A. J., 308, 309 

Ball, Sidney, 269 

Baring, Hon. Maurice, 191 

Barnes, E. \V., Bishop of Birming- 
ham, 108, 127, 148, 163 

Bateman, Sir A., 114 

Bateson, William, 224 

Beck, A. E.. 127 

Beerbohm, Max, 261 

Bennett, Arnold, 225 

Benson. Arthur Christopher : 

character, 1 1-26 ; early 
years, 28-30 ; assistant 
ma-ster at Eton, 30 ; house 
master, 32 ; leaves Eton, 
69 ; settles at Cambridge, 
73 ; Fellow of Magdalene, 
75 ; President, 229, 244 ; 
blaster, 279, 282, 283 ; Last 
illness and death, 315 

— , Edward Frederick, 28, 168, 297, 
310 

— , Edward WTiite, Archbishop of 
Canterburs-, 28, 34, 35, 58, 
78. 79 



Benson, Margaret, 28, 156, 2G5 

279. 314 
— , Martin, 28 
— , Mar\- Eleanor, 28 
— . Mrs.', 28, 34, 44, 297, 299, 314 
— , Robert Hugh, 28, 104, 117, 
152, 181, 257, 266, 279, 2S2 
Bentinck, Count William, 250 
" Beth " {see Cooper, Ehzabeth) 
Bigge, Sir A., 42 
Binyon, Laurence, 261 
Blaice, William, 140 
Blakiston, Noel, 313, 314 
Bowlby, H. T., 209 
Brantwood, 177, 178 
Braybrooke, Lord, 279, 283, 304 
Bridgeman, Rt.-Hon. W. C, 304 
Bridges, Robert, ig8 
Broadway, 77, 270 
Bronte, Emily, 275 
Brooke, Rupert, 148, 194, 239. 

275. 299 
Browne, Miss, 39, 40 
Browning, Oscar, 1 19-21, 149 
— , Robert, 53, 151 
Br>ce, Viscount, 284, 285, 290 
Burne- Jones, Sir Philip, 251, 289 
Burrows, W. O., Archdeacon t>f 

Birmingham, iCi 
Butler, H. M., Master of Trinity, 
107, 108, 148. 161, 231, 232. 
290 
— , Samuel, 267 
Buxton, Cliirence, 267 
Byron, portrait of, 160, 163 

Cadogan, Hon. A. 71 
— , Hon. E., 35 
Cambridge, 55, 62, 73, 104 
Cambridge, H.R.H. Duke of, 53, 

158 
Campbell, R. J., 204 
Cantcrbun, Arclibishop of {see 

Davidson, Randall) 
Carev, F. C. S., 158 



317 



INDEX 



Carlyle, Thomas, 219, 220 

— , Mrs., 220 

Carter, F. E., Co-Dean of Boclcing, 

39, 232, 233 
— , T. B., 150 
Castle Rising, 171 
Chamberlain, Rt.-Hon. J., 52 
Champneys, Basil, 164, 249, 269 
Cheltenham, 80 
Childers. H. R. E., 81, 138 
City Temple, The. 204 
Clark, J. W., 109, 126, 148 
Clutton-Brock, Hugh, 314, 315 
Cockerell, S. C, 215 
Cole, A. C. 158 

Connaught. H.R.H. Duke of, 42 
Cooper, Ehzabeth ("Beth"), 117, 

118, 152, 175, 206, 207, 314 
Corelli, Marie, 182 
Corfe Castle, no 
Cornish, F. W. Warre, Vice- Provost 
of Eton, 49, 91, 104, III, 
244, 285-8 
— , Mi-s. Warre, 197, 244, 286-8 
Cory, WiUiam [sec Johnson, 

William) 
Cox, Harold, 237 
Cox, Mrs., 45 
Cunningham, W., Archdeacon of 

Ely, 108, 163, 214 

Darwin, Sir F., 223, 232 

— , Lady, 148 

Davidson, Randall, Archbishop of 

Canterbury', 38, 164, 269 
Dewar, Sir James, 289 
Dickinson, G. Lowes, 306 
Dimsdale, Marcus, 208, 315 
Dobson, Austin, 164 
Dolmetsch, A., 251 
Donaldson, St. Clair, Bishop of 

Salisbury, 41, 300 
— , Stuart A., Master of Magdalene, 

38, 74, 77, 84, 103, 106, 161, 

214, 245, 279 
Dorchester, no 
Dreams, 57, 70, 89, 127, 142, 169, 

211, 284, 314 
'■ Duchess of Malfi, The," 305 
Dunskey, 38, 39, 40, 41, 50 
Durnford, Sir Walter, Provost of 
King's, 163, 226, 287, 306 

ECCI.EFECHAN, 220 

Eccles, J. R., 301 

Edinburgh, Bishop of (5f^ Walpolc, 

G. H. S.) 
Esher, Viscount, 68, 69 
Eton, 58, 59, loi, 102, 137, 138, 

142, 285-8 



" Eumenides, The," 148, 194 
Exeter, Marquis of, 303 

Fairford, 165, 166, 206 

Fawkes, Admiral Sir W. H., 254 

Fishmongers, Company of, 189, 298. 

301, 313 
FitzGerald, Edward, 74, 112 
Foakes- Jackson, F. J., 108, 127, 

163, 232 
Ford, Lionel, Dean of York, 56, 

149, 150 
Forster, E. M., 300 
Fortescue, Lady, 250 
Fox Howe, 121, 122 

Gaselee, Stephen, 190, 199, 223, 
253, 260, 282 

Giles, Mrs., 233 

Glaisher, J. W. L., 239 

Gloucester, 78, 79 

Goodhart, A. M., 76 

Gosse, Sir Edmund, 32, 93-5, 114, 
129, 138, 175, 176, 183, 191, 222, 
229, 232, 242, 243, 303, 304 

Gray, Thomas, 161 

Grenfell, Julian, 74 

Haldane, Viscount, 138, 235, 236 
Harcourt, Sir William, 37 
Hardy, Thomas, 81, 82, 254, 259, 

260, 281 
Harrison, Miss Jane, 208 
Henley, W. E., 47 
Henselt, 92 
Hewlett, Maurice, 261 
Hinton Hall (Isle of Ely), 132, 141 
Holland, H. Scott, 231, 232 
— , R. Martin, 217 
HoUenden, Lord, 301 
Holt (Gresham's School), 189, 218. 

252, 253 
Home, Sylvester, 266 
Horner, Edward, 74, 92, 112, 146, 

147 
Howson, G. W. S., 252 
Hugh-Smith, Owen, 158, 304 
Hunting, Jesse, 160, 190, 200, 294 

Inge, W. R., Dean of St. Paul's, 
196, 248, 261, 267 

Jackson, Henry, 108, 290 
James, Henry, 46-8, 81, 82, 183, 
225, 226, 273, 280, 281, 297 
— , Montague Rhodes, Provost of 
King's, afterwards of Eton, 
96, 97, 103, 107, 116, 126, 
129, 130. 158. 193, 233, 
253, 2S3 



318 



INDEX 



Jebb, Sir R. C, 12S, 120 
Johnson, William (Cor}), 27, 35, 

41, 59, 61, 123 
Jones, H. Festing, 223 
— , S. Vernon, 190, 26S, 305 

Kkable, R., 223 

Keats. John, 143, 144, an 

Kclmscott, 165-8 

Kcmpe, C. E., 70, 8S, 124, 166, 253 

Kcr, W. P., 288, 289 

Keynes, J. M., 309 

Kipling, Rudyard, 84 

Lamb House, Rye, 46, 297, 298 

Lancing, 209 

Lapsley, G. T., 108, 109, 127, 151, 

152/153. 163, 207. 299 
Laurence, R. V., 108, log, 127, 163, 

214, 301 
Leslie, Shane, 272 
Lincoln, 29, 88 
Literary Societ>', The, 162, 163, 164, 

249, 270, 308 
Lloyd, C. H.. 92, 95 
Lubbock, Percy, 94, 138. 139, 140, 

144, 143. 155. 164, 168. 193, 198 

199, 216, 217, 218, 225, 258, 275 
— , Roy, 199 
Ludlow 182 
Luxmoore, H. E., 152 
Lyttelton, Hon. C. F., 158, 159 
— , Hon. Edward, 31, 108, 113, 

114, 288 
— , Hon. G. W., 142 
— , Hon. G. W. Spencer. 198, 221, 

222, 262, 263 
— , Hon. Sir Nevile, 1 58 

MacCarthy, Desmond, 267, 307, 

308 
Macnaghten, Hugh. 287 
Madan, Geoffrey, 268, 269, 270, 

271, 284, 290' 
Magdalene, 74, 75, 103 
Maitland, A. Fuller, 212 
Mallor>', George H. L., 126, 127, 135, 

148, 171-3, 187, 194, 300 
Mann, A. H., 306 
Manning, Cardinal, 272, 273 
Marshall, Mrs. Stephen, 121, 210, 211 
Martindale, C. C, 282 
Man-, H.M., Queen. 311, 312 
Mason, A. J., Master of Pembroke, 

39, 160, i6i, 232, 233, 302 
Melrose, 85 

Morley, Viscount, 147, 176 
Morris, G. G.. 224 
— . William. 96, 130, 131, 138, 167, 
168, 197, 204. 211, 225 



Morshead, O. F., 299, 309, 315 
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 96, 97 

N.\ WORTH Castlk, 221 

Xewbolt, Sir Henry, 225, 249. 308 

Newman, Cardinal, 82, 237 

Newsom, Professor, 223 

Newton, Professor Alfred. 140, 156, 

174 
Nicholson, W., 292. 306 
Norwich, Bishop of {see Pollock, 

Bertram) 
Norwich, Catliedral, 194, 195, 310, 

311 
Nuttall, Professor, 190 

Oliphant, Mrs., 47 

Oxford and Asquith, Earl of, 53, 

312 
, Countess of, 312 

Parratt, Sir Walter. 42, 53 
Parry, Sir Hubert, 52 
— , R. St. J., 302 
Pater, Walter, 94, 103, 117, 118 
Peel, T., 190, 266, 299 
Peskett, A. G., 190. 229, 283 
Petrarch, 223 

Pollock, Bertram, Bishop of Nor- 
wich, 195, 196, 301, 310-12 
Ponsonby, Lady, 37 
Prothero, Sir G. W., 249 

QuiLLER-CoucH, Sir Arthur, 241, 
262 

Raleigh, Sir Walter. 208, 261 

Ramsey, A. S., 190, 283, 299 

Rawlins, F. H., 69, 72 

Rendall, M. J., 194 

Repton, 149, 150, 163 

Richmond, O. L., 193, 216, 259 

Rodd, Sir Rennell. 309 

Rossetti, D. G., 62, 65, 67, 86, 96 

Rossini, 53 

Ruskin, John, 177, 178, 256 

Ru.ssell, Hon. Bertrand, 234 

Rvdal Mount, 122 

Rye, 46 

Rylands, George, 303, 304, 305, 306 

Ryle, Edward, 72, 89 

— , Herbert, Bishop of Winchester, 
afterwards Dean of West- 
minster, 52, 89, 112, 250 

Salisbury, Bishop of {see Donald- 
son, St. Clair) 

Salter, F. R., 190, 194, 199, 206, 207. 
249. 253, 266, 283, 299, 309. 312. 
315 



319 



INDEX 



Sargent. John S., 254 
Saxe-Coburg, H.R.H. Duke of, 

37. 121 
Schiller, F. C. S., 269 
Scholfield, A. F., 148 
Scotsbrig, 220 
Scott, Sir Walter, 65, 85-7 
Sedgwick, Adam, 127, 128 
Severn, Arthui, 177 
— , Mrs. Arthur, 177 
Sherborne, 242 
Shipley, Sir A. E., Master of Christ's 

113, 148, 158, 268 
Sidgwick, Henry, 236 
— , Mrs. Henr\-, 217, 302 
Skclwithfold (Ambleside), 121, 210 
Smith, R. J., 275 
Somervell, Arthur, 158 
Squire, J. C, 136 
Stanford, Sir Charles, 53, 163, 

164 
Stephen, Sir Herbert, 205 
— , J. K., 205 
— , James, 261 
— , Leslie, 197 
— , Miss, 249 
Strachey, Lytton, 234 
Strutt, Hon. Robin, 148, 256 
Sturgis, Howard O., 38, 44, 45, 82, 

1-14. 145. 157. 183, 276 
Sutherland, Duke and Duchess of, 

92 
Swinburne, A. C, 64-8 

Tabley, Lord de, 68 

Tait, Miss Lucy, 297 

Tanner, J. R., 224. 334 

Tan-yr-allt, 38, 44 

Tatham. H. F. W., 31, 38, 59, 72, 

no, 165 
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 130, 211, 

243 
Thomson, Sir J. J., Master of 

Trinity, 233 
Todd, H. Ross, 155, 179, 296 



Tremans, 43 
Trevelyan, George, 270 

Velasquez, 141 
Verrall, A. W., 236, 240 
Victoria, H.M. Queen, 33, 41, 42, 43 

, correspondence of, 69, 73, 74, 

103, 133. 138, 147. 156, 176 

WaGGETT, p. X., 190, 191, Iy2 
223, 268 

Vv'agner, Professor A., 254 
Walpole, G. H. S., Bishop of Edin- 
burgh, 232, 233 
— , Hugh, 113, 199, 215, 226 
— , Sir Spencer, 164 
Warre, Edmund, 33, 35, 36, 50, 51, 

59, 60, 65, 75, 82, 83, 139, 140 
Watts-Dunton, Theodore, 63-8 
Wellington College, 28 
Wells, 203 

Wells, H. G., 243, 244 
Westminster Abbey, 175, 250 
Westminster, Dean of {see Kyle, 

Herbert) 
Whitefield's Tabernacle, 267 
\Mlkinson, G. H., Bishop of Truro, 

afterwards of St. Andrew's, 115, 

116, 160, 161 
Willink, J. W., Dean of Norwich, 

310 
Wimborne, no, in 
Winchester, Bishop of [see Ryle, 

Herbert) 
Windsor Castle, 76, 138 
Winstanley, D. A., 224, 233, 300, 

301, 305 
Winterbotham, Geoffrey, 199, 200, 

206, 207, 218, 219, 222 
Wordsworth, Wilham, 86, 121, 122, 

123 
Wright, W. Aldis, 107, 108 

Yeats, W. !'., 92, 261 
York, Cathedral, 41, 87, 88 



320 




PR Benson, Arthur Christopher 

^099 Diary 

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